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The Heretic is a free dispatch delivering insights into what it takes to lead into & in the unknown. For entrepreneurs, corporate irritants and change makers. Raw, unfiltered and opinionated.

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Aug 9th, 2021 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Beachballs and Icebergs

Imagine a beachball floating on a calm sea. Now imagine that everything above water signifies success with your startup or innovation initiative, everything below is failure. The beachball exemplifies the optimism most entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs hold about their respective initiatives.

In reality, of course, the beachball isn’t a beachball at all but rather an iceberg — 7/8th of which is under water (and thus the chance of failure). To be precise, in most circumstances the picture would be more accurate if the iceberg would be dragged down by a submarine, leaving a meager 1-5% chance of success emerging from the cold, dark sea.

We know this. Of course. But are we truly okay with this? Or do we cling onto our beachball and chose to ignore the ugly truth — until the sometimes bitter end?

Over the last couple of months, I talked to a bunch of founders and execs in varying states of distress. Their companies or projects didn’t make it. Oftentimes, the fallout of COVID-19 sank their floating icebergs. Believing that eternal optimism doesn’t allow for critical self-reflection nor spending any time or energy on scenarios besides “total success”, they didn’t know anymore what to do next.

It is healthy and wise to consider all the options which present themselves. Instead of only shooting for the stars, we are well served to contemplate how we react when things don’t go as planned. It makes you a better, stronger, more resilient leader who doesn’t get knocked off balance when she hits a wall.

You will fail much more than you will succeed in life. It’s just the way it is. That’s okay. It is part of the journey. Just be prepared and plan your next move — even if that move is, for a little while, not up but sideways or even down.

Trust me: You will get back.

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