Mastering the Art of Recovery

“When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that makes it good or bad.” ~ Miles Davis

At his first acting audition, a 16-year-old kid was told, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something.”

If you were that 16-year old kid, what would you have done?

  • Would you have gone off and become a dishwasher or something or,
  • Would you have rattled off a list of why you were indeed qualified for the role you were auditioning for or,
  • Would you have a one-on-one conversation with your ego and say let’s go to work and get the skills required to do this job right.?

The kid chose the latter. That kid was Sidney Poitier and you know what happened next and continued to keep happening for many years to come.

Many who have experienced both success and failure say that while success is sweet, failure has the best lessons. You will be unable to access those lessons though if failure wipes you out.

If you’re trying. If you’re exerting effort, there’s a very high probability that you’re going to mess up. You’re going to fail. To safeguard against failure knocking you down and keeping you there, you need to master the art of recovery.

The art of recovery involves the following five steps.

1. Acknowledge the Failure

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”  ~Theodore Roosevelt

Failure is not hallowed ground. It bears the footprints of many. Ignoring its occurrence sets you twenty steps back as opposed to just two.

When it comes to power, knowledge continues to hold pace with the best of them. When you attempt to do something and that effort results in failure you are equipped with knowledge that you would otherwise have never had access to. This knowledge can place you at the head of the pack if you learn to use it right.

As you acknowledge the failure, it is equally important to acknowledge your role in its creation. Many of us were taught this lesson a long time ago. He who gets the blame gets the punishment. Lurking in the shadows of failure is fear of blame and also pride.

You know what they say about pride, it comes before a fall. In addition, if pride is standing in between you and acknowledging failure, it means that you’re caring too much about what others think.When it comes to the blame portion, learn to view the

When it comes to the blame portion, learn to view the acknowledgment of your part in a failed event not as a source of punishment but of learning.

When you fail to acknowledge your role in a negative outcome, you reserve yourself a lifetime roundtrip ticket on a plane with only one destination. Failure.

2. Fill in the Gaps

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”  ~Henry Ford

Never allow yourself to go blindly from failure to failure. No matter how inconsequential that failure may seem to be.

Failure has its place but it should never be the plan. The occurrence of it means that there are gaps that need to be filled. Ignoring the gaps leads to canyons down the road that you will struggle needlessly and unsuccessfully to climb out of.

Fill in the gaps. Be completely honest with yourself and discipline yourself to go beyond the obvious. As you analyze why your efforts resulted in failure, beware of your pre-existing beliefs that may steer you towards seeing things as you wish them to be versus as they are.

We always gravitate towards our strengths. To master the art of the recovery” though, you must face your weaknesses. Dissect the failure from all angles and do patch work as dictated by what you find and not what you feel.

If the lens through which you’re reviewing the failure is cloudy, call for reinforcements to help clear the haze.

3. Make a Plan

“Few people have any next, they live from hand to mouth without a plan, and are always at the end of their line.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those who’ve mastered the art of recovery did not do it by chance. They had a plan. Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years. When asked by Tony Robbins how he survived he responded, “I didn’t survive, I prepared.” 

You’re going to need a plan and not just any plan will do. Good plans tell you what to do. Great plans tell you what to do when you start to veer off course or life interrupts. You should know that life is designed to interrupt.

For example, let’s say you decide to hit the gym 5 times a week at 4 pm. On the 5th day, 4 pm finds you unexpectedly nowhere near your gym.

Do you:

  • Shrug it off and say there’s always tomorrow or,
  • Do you start whining to whomever you’re with about what you should be doing at this time or,
  • Do you pick from the list of alternatives that you had pre-planned for moments just like this?

Without a great plan, you’d spend your time berating yourself over the workout you missed, sharing that negativity with those around you and stacking up too many tomorrows. With a great plan, you would have simply picked from the list of alternatives that you had pre-planned for moments just like this.

Something else to keep in mind as you make your plan is that you may come to find that what you are trying to accomplish has been done by somebody else. Somebody who you may even admire. A word of caution in this regard.

Never set out to copy word for word or action for action the plan that your favorite mogul, start-up guru or mentor used to get them where they are.  That plan was not designed for you and is not all-inclusive.This is because they have learned over time that most people don’t want to hear what they really sacrificed and did to get where they are today. They only want to hear what they feel they can also accomplish.

In addition, people who have already succeeded at something know this hard truth. People don’t want to hear what you really sacrificed and did to get where you are today. They only want to hear what they feel they can also accomplish.

Be inspired by the plans of others but always make a plan for who you are at the point where you are at. Your mentor might only be sleeping for four hours because that is what they need. You might need more but your commitment is such that you are able to accomplish the things you set out to achieve but are choosing instead, to get stuck on the fact that you’re sleeping for two hours more than they are.

So make a plan. Make a plan that challenges you and works for you as that’s the only plan you’re going to end up sticking to.

4. Recommit Yourself

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses – only results.” ~ Ken Blanchard

Failure no matter how proudly or nobly faced will leave you with some doubts. It will shake some things loose that will need to be tightened. If you allow it to, it will rob you of the enthusiasm and sense of persistence required to step back onto the field.

So, take some time to recommit to yourself and to your worth that still stands in spite of what you have just experienced. Then, recommit yourself mentally to your goals and to your journey. Step back and look at the big picture and remind yourself why it matters. Why this journey must be seen through to the end.

During this time you might make the discovery that your why is not strong enough to see you through because it was poorly chosen. This represents growth and your honesty should be applauded. Starting for the wrong reasons can be understood. Staying for the wrong reason reflects poor character and a lack of responsibility for ones own life.

So change the why or change the goal. If you change the goal remember, that you may need to go back to the previous step and change the plan to match the new goal.

5. Try Again

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  ~ Winston Churchill

Everything you have done above has equipped you with various pieces of knowledge. Knowledge is just the start and learning does not happen at the table. What makes knowledge worth all the time and effort you took to collect it is action. Persistent, consistent action.

So try again. Try again before you talk yourself out of trying and get in your own way. Try sooner rather than later before fear increases its footprint in your life and you deem the risk to costly.

As you try again and step back onto the field remember this. Treat the past failure as a single event. This isn’t every other time. This time is now. It only exists in this moment. You’ve never been here before. Don’t weigh this moment down with baggage from past failures. Take a clean shot.


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Survivorship Bias – The Pitfalls of Only Studying Success

Every day, the human body sends the brain 11 million bits of information per second for processing. If every time we came upon a new situation we had to process all of the information we were perceiving consciously, the strain on our brains would be substantial. Some social psychologists believe our cognitive biases help us process this information more efficiently.

A cognitive bias refers to a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion.

Helpful as our cognitive biases may be, they can lead us to make grave mistakes. Cognitive biases can result in perceptual blindness or distortion, illogical interpretation, inaccurate judgments, irrationality and bad decisions.

Let’s look at a bias that has negative ramifications that few people are aware of.

Survivorship Bias

Survivorship bias, or survival bias, is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that “survived” some process and inadvertently overlooking those that did not because of their lack of visibility.

In his blog, You Are Not So Smart, David McRaney gives the following example of survivorship bias.

During World War II, military engineers wanted to figure out how to make bomber planes safer for the pilots who risked their lives to fly them. When the engineers looked at returned planes, they saw that bullet damage clustered in three main places: the wings, the body, and the rear gunner. These then were the places they suggested be reinforced with extra armor.

A statistician named Abraham Wald proffered an alternate conclusion to these findings. These planes, Wald pointed out, had survived being hit. What this revealed was that a plane could get shot multiple times in the wings, body, and rear gunner and still manage to fly. It was the rest of the plane that needed reinforcement.

In everyday life, survivorship bias happens all the time because we are obsessed with successful outcomes. It’s why we look for the winners, seek their advice and buy their books. Accepting their incomplete information as the whole picture.

The problem with the overwhelming focus on success is that valuable insights from failure are drowned out. In addition, failing to look at the whole picture makes things look easier than they are.

Can you Eliminate Survivorship Bias?

The euphoric wave of success is tough to ignore. Survivorship bias represents just one of many ways our brain contributes to our skewed reality.

The important thing about survivorship bias is that once alerted to its existence we should always seek out the non-survivors and hear their stories and learn their lessons. We should always seek to find out what’s missing from the data at hand for only it can ground us in reality.

For if we are to succeed, knowing what not to do is critical don’t you think?

“Beware advice from the successful.” ~ Barnaby James

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8 Ways You are Contributing to Your own Failure

The easiest thing in the world is to blame others when things go wrong. If your failures have become so consistent that they border on art, its time for some introspection. It’s time to figure out how you are contributing to your own failure.

Here are some common culprits.

1. A Lack of Humility

We’ve all met that person who has read one book or, has experienced one success and is now a self-proclaimed expert. No matter how smart, successful, good-looking or privileged you are, nobody likes a braggart. Nobody likes arrogance. Nobody likes cockiness.

Humility is knowing what you don’t know. By remaining humble, you are receptive to opportunities presented therein to improve. When you fail, humility makes it possible for you to learn the right lessons. You haven’t learned the right lesson if you continue to  wallow in the past, stay stuck in victim mode and blame others for your failure.

You know you’ve learned the right lessons from failure when you’re eager to try again, this time with more wisdom. You know that your failure has brought you that much closer to success because of the knowledge you’ve gained from the experience.

2. A Lack of Grit

 The quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over really disappointingly long periods of time. ~ Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth

Excellence comes at a price and anyone who’s been to the top of the mountain has a tale of struggle and perseverance to share. If you keep abandoning your efforts midstream – without cause-  then failure will be firmly entrenched in your identity.

Can you have too much grit?

“Absolutely. When you drive forward to the detriment of yourself and others, I call that stupid grit,” explains best-selling author and positive psychology coach Caroline Adams Miller. “It’s what happens when athletes play through pain and ruin their careers. It occurs in workplaces when people become too rigid around ideas or practices and fail to pivot when the market changes. In mountaineering, it’s called summit fever. In scuba diving, it’s called the rapture of the deep.”

Proceed with caution and be on the lookout for good for you grit and stupid grit.

3. A Fear of Standing out Amongst the Crowd

Change is uncomfortable. Not just to you but to those around you. People don’t like it when other people dare to go in search of their better selves. Why? It puts a spotlight on their own shortcomings. Those closest to you will often be your harshest critics. This reality always gives us pause.

Don’t let that hold you back. If you want to do something incredible then you have to be true to only one person – YOU. Become comfortable with being different from the rest. Loved ones included.


4. Poor Networking and Relationship Building Skills

Giving and receiving support from others is a basic human need.

Research has proved that having a support system has many positive benefits, such as higher levels of well-being, better coping skills and a longer and healthier life.Networking can help you get more out of life as noted in this post by Jason Womack in the Entrepreneur.

Creating meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships hinges on your ability to meet people and connect with them.

We all need a champion. The ‘who’ in the “… It’s who you know” cliche combined with what you know can open doors you didn’t even know existed.

The road to anywhere worth going will never be straight. Cheerleaders are a necessity and not a luxury. And remember, you only need one.

If you’ve put in the time and the effort. If you’ve persevered and pushed through. Why fail because your networking and relationship building skills have the strength of freshly made noodles?

5. Resistance to Receiving Feedback

If this is your Achilles heal, ask yourself: Are you trying to be right or are trying to be good?

To succeed at anything, there’s a feedback loop that must be in place: try something -> get feedback and results -> learn from feedback and results -> retry with enhanced knowledge. If you are dead set on arguing why what you believe is right despite undeniable evidence to the contrary, you’re sentencing yourself to a failure full life.

Not all feedback is constructive though so always consider the source. Feedback from someone who has never had your best interests in mind or a desire to see you get ahead will be tinged accordingly. Accept all feedback and process it accordingly.

A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. ~Proverbs 28:13

6. Untamed Distractions

Distractions zap focus and concentration – two key elements of success.

Everything in your life is informing and influencing your life. Just as you are what you eat, you are what you allow to distract you. Pile up too many distractions and the way forward becomes littered with time eating mines.

Letting distractions run unfettered in your daily undertakings robs you of the focus and concentration required to create the momentum to keep you rolling towards your goal.

Taming the distraction monster is vital to getting the right things done at the right time. This is extremely important because success is all about timing.

7. Shirking Responsibility for the Events in your Life

Ambition means tying your well-being to what other people say or do. Self-indulgence means tying it to the things that happen to you. Sanity means tying it to your own actions. ~ Marcus Aurelius

Shaggy’s It Wasn’t Me, catchy dance hit should never be a part of your anthemic arsenal. It is you. It’s always you.You are responsible. You are responsible for everything that happens in your life.

To fix the problems in your life you must have power over them. You can’t have power over aspects of your life unless you acknowledge the role you played in creating them. To put it another way. Apathy = failure!

8. A Lackluster Sense of Belief

Your mind’s unconscious beliefs about your possibilities will inform your level of effort and expectation of success.

I wrote about it here so now is a great time to revisit what you may or may not have read. In short, you have to BE before you can do, and DO before you can HAVE. Emphatic emphasis on the BEing part.


Yes, failure is good for success but too much of anything will eventually poison the host.

Ladies and gentlemen, adopt this mantra “The buck stops here.”

This list is not complete by a long shot. Can you add any other culprits to the list?

Thanks for reading! If this post resonates with you be sure to click the like button below. Feel free to also share it so others may benefit from it too.

Lifeisms In A Nutshell – #58 – The Fear of Success

1*xHIt358VBCxgcJW-2ooNXAA 9-year old girl created a business plan. Her name is Rylee. Her business – dog walking. Her business plan has 7 steps. The 7th step; Success. She’s prepared to do the work. She’s prepared to win.

Then there is you. Let’s give you a purpose. Creative expression through lyrical prose. Commitment has nothing on you. You have been intertwined with your craft for as long as you can remember. Success has been shy to show its face. Quitting always not too far away. But you held on. You put in the work. You sacrificed.

You receive the call. From your manager or your agent. Or from mom, who is both manager and agent. You did it. You got nominated. Your odds of winning. 1 in 5. You book your flight. First class all the way. You recognize this moment. For we all dream in gold.

For we all dream in gold.

Bon voyage. See you at the ceremony.

You arrive. Pomp and circumstance fully engaged. A red carpet. The first of many. But you don’t know that yet. You take your seat. Let the festivities begin.

Your category is up. They announce your name. One amongst five. Five great. Five in the league of extraordinary. Five forever changing the game. They open the envelope. You hear but don’t hear. It’s you. You have won. You of the humble beginnings. Of early mornings and later nights. Of sleeping in cars. Of nearly crushed dreams. You, the recipient of overly generous rejections. You have won.

You get on stage and say. “I was not expecting this”. Fair enough. You are recognizing the other giants in your category.

You then say. “I have no speech prepared.”

I’m sorry , please repeat. What do you mean you have no speech prepared. No vote of thanks. No  ‘because of you mom, part agent, part manager, I am …’. Did you not prepare for success?

It then becomes clear. It is was never about failure. It was the fear of success. The fear of selling out. The fear of not being able to cope. The fear of becoming different. The fear of  surpassing your potential.

However you define success. Prepare for it.

Prepare for wild and unchartered territory. No two successes are alike.

Prepare for the new. For the exciting.

Prepare to feel the fear rise.

Prepare to watch your dreams take flight.

Prepare for the tidal wave of overnight success. That took 20 years to get here. For that, without a doubt, will require you to be strapped in for one heck of a ride.

Prepare for the call.

Write the speech….. I look forward to hearing it.

Thanks for reading. Help prepare the ones you know for success so that you may keep each other company when you get there.
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A Lesson In What Not To Do


One of the toughest things a parent has to do today, all around the world, is teach their children what to do in the event that their school comes under attack. The reality of the world we live in today unfortunately requires that we cannot live in denial and need to be well trained and prepared (emphasis on WELL). Preparation needs to include hands-on drills.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a drill as follows:

a  :  to fix something in the mind or habit pattern of by repetitive instruction <drill pupils in spelling>

b  :  to impart or communicate by repetition 

c  :  to train or exercise in military drill

When you enter a plane, shortly before take off the flight attendants (live or via video) walk you through the safety features of the aircraft and what you should do in the event of various emergencies (e.g. cabin decompression, water landing etc.). At no time does the pilot initiate an emergency situation to check whether you are adequately prepared.

The objective of a security drill is to ensure that those participating in the drill are well prepared should the actual event occur. At the core of a great security drill is planning and communication and these were clearly lacking at the terrorism drill held at Strathmore University (Kenya) on Monday, November 30th, 2015.

Why Strathmore University (Kenya) chose to initiate a terrorist drill complete with armed individuals acting as extremist attackers and done apparently in conjunction with area police/security agencies makes absolutely no sense as evidenced in the loss of life, the countless injured and the ensuing chaos thereafter.

Strathmore University board apologized to the school fraternity and condolences to the family of one staff member who died as a result of injuries received during the drill aimed at testing the preparedness of the university and emergency response team in the event of an attack. The University vice chancellor, Prof. John Odhiambo said the institution will pay the medical fees for the 30 people injured including 20 who are still in a hospital, two in critical condition.

Taking care of the injured is the very least they can do but what they have neglected to address is the post-traumatic stress that has been experienced by those individuals who were not physically injured.  Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is life altering and anyone who was at the university should be offered counseling for as long as they need it to ensure that there no lingering adverse effects of this botched operation.

Terrorist events by design are traumatic events. Terrorism threatens a society by instilling fear and helplessness in its citizens. To know that your school administration in collaboration with government personnel tasked with your safety decided to initiate a mock attack is quite devastating. The actions of the administration of Strathmore University showed a callous disregard for human life and there should be severe consequences.


Don’t Be Afraid To Fall


We all wish we had the Midas touch more times than we care to admit, but being successful at everything you attempt, be it related to business or your personal life is a very rare occurrence. Failure is part of life.

In today’s society, failure has become something to fear, avoid, and prevent at all costs. As a result, a lot of us are afraid to fail. We believe it’s a sign of weakness and can even come to regret ever taking that leap of faith. This fear has led to a lot of paralysis be it staying in a relationship that you should have quit a long time ago or a business opportunity that you need to close the books on. Sadly I am not immune to this fear and I even have a ten-year “chase” record to remind me of when I let the fear of failure run my life.

Your failures don’t have to cost you millions to teach you something. In forty-one years, I have had only one car accident. I was extremely comfortable behind the wheel and was the designated driver amongst my friends. So when I moved back to Kenya I was feeling pretty confident when I started driving. I handled the return to driving on the left quite well and I thought I had in the bag so I got comfortable. Nine months into my return I had my second car accident. When you are embarking on a new adventure, we are always searching for items to put in the success column. Being comfortable driving in Kenya was one of those things I had listed in my success column. When the accident happened I felt like I had failed.

Failure is the companion of success. Definitely an unwanted companion for sure, but nevertheless, a very important one. You don’t solve an issue by resisting it. We overcome failure by owning it, analyzing it, dissecting it, and looking at it from every possible angle.

Over the 65 days it took to get the car repaired I did exactly that. When the car was ready I admit I was still a bit shaken but I had done my homework and I am happy to report that shortly there after I embarked on my first road trip. This was necessary not only to build back my confidence that was a bit shaken after the accident but to also put into practice the lessons I learnt from the failure that resulted in the accident.


Without failure, there is no growth. We need to redefine what it means to fail and recognize failure for what it is; battle scars to be proud of, on the way to achieving your goals. Failure is your friend, for you cannot succeed without running into a few bumps along the way.

Michael Jordan said it best “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” If Michael Jordan who is dubbed “the greatest basketball player of all time” is not afraid to fail, surely I can face the failures that come my way.

Failure is essential for success and studying your own and others failures is an important learning tool. So learn to be comfortable with failure and surround yourself with positive, like-minded people who help you focus on the opportunities the failure presents rather than the failure itself.

Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently

~ Henry Ford ~