Fail Fast, Fail Often: Lean Self-Improvement

Sarah Courtney

Sarah Courtney

Fail fast, fail often and, eventually, you will get it right, said Business & Life Coach, Sarah Courtney.

Sarah’s advice was given at the Irish Computer Society (@IrishCompSoc) in a talk called, “The Unwritten Code to Getting What You Want.”

Coaching is “not airy fairy stuff,” she told the group. It can a direct impact on personal and business bottom lines.

Adobe saw staff retention shoot up by 30% after it introduced coaching for employees. And Ernst & Young said female staff retention after maternity leave went from 80% to 94%.

Coaching, however, requires intensive effort, Sarah said. People looking to improve their situations need:

  • Vision (not fantasy or day dreaming)
  • Honest self-evaluation to find self-sabotaging behaviors
  • To identify qualities that will help them achieve goals
  • Goals
  • Action with discipline and integrity

During the Q&A session, I asked how people could be sure they were picking the correct qualities needed to help them progress.

Sarah replied that it was a matter of trial and error. Another audience member agreed and suggested the “fail early, fail often” approach adopted by start-ups.

Read how Ben Parr, Jonathan Siegal, Mike Schroepfer implement fail fast.

Funnily enough, I came across such an example this week while reading a Freakonomics essay about Seth Roberts, a psychology professor at the University of California.

In his mid-20s, Roberts was overweight, had bad acne and insomnia. Now, “he is a clear-skinned, well-rested, entirely affable man who weighs about 160 pounds and looks 10 years younger than his age,” according to the article.

Roberts started working on his problems as a graduate student when he had the “clever idea of turning his personal problems into research subjects.”

He started small and managed to clear his acne. His insomnia, however, took 10 years to figure out! This was cured by a combination of morning light, skipping breakfast and 8 hours of standing, according to Freakonomics.

This whiskey company does not have the luxury of failing fast. It has to wait 3 years + 1 day to find out!

Ten years is probably too long a time frame for most of us, but, as Sarah Courtney noted, achieving our visions takes a lot of work.

Image taken from Sarah Courtney’s LinkedIn page.

3 thoughts on “Fail Fast, Fail Often: Lean Self-Improvement

  1. Pingback: Summit Colossus Selling Out Hotels Already | John P. Muldoon

  2. Thank you for this good pick-up of the “fail fast, fail often” principle. It is indeed a good ingredient to (Lean) self-improvement. What I would add is “move forward, don’t fall back” to ensure you see real improvement. Otherwise you end up with what I call Quantum Leaps

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