When it doesn’t work out

Possibility has a flipside.

We need possibility to do our best work. To believe that it might work. To understand that if we do our best work and bring our full selves to the project, we have a shot at achieving our goal. Hope is fuel.

Perhaps we’ll make the sale, be admitted, create a hit, change someone’s mind, invent a breakthrough, play the notes beautifully, open doors and create magic…

But we might not.

And if we don’t, what then?

The first opportunity is to learn from what happened. That possibility was there, but we guessed wrong, or missed a cue or need a new skill. Perhaps we have to find a way to get the benefit of the doubt or simply need more practice and experience.

But, with apologies to Gödel, maybe there is no solution. Maybe the thing we thought was a problem wasn’t a problem to be solved (because problems have solutions) maybe it was simply a situation or even a dead end. Given who you are, what you know and what you’re dealing with, there actually wasn’t the possibility for success, even if it seemed there was.

Or perhaps there was luck involved, and this time, the luck wasn’t on our side (perhaps 20% of the applicants who are qualified get in to famous colleges, which means that kids who do their best still have just a 1 in 5 chance of admission).

If there was no acceptable solution, or there was more bad luck than we hoped, then there’s no room for shame or blame or recriminations. All we can do is honor the situation and work to find the next thing, another opportunity to contribute or grow. Spending cycles on blame (of ourselves or others) is time we can ill afford to waste.