Startegy – or just getting stuff done?

That’s not a typo, I meant Startegy. That is my normal typo when I type strategy, but inspired by Neil Gaiman’s typo of Caroline. I thought it summed up an approach to things that just got on with doing stuff and seeing what worked.

Fear of the Unknown

Many of us, myself included, have put off starting things because we’re worried that we’re not yet ready. Starting things can be scary. It’s a journey into the unknown, especially if we can’t see where it’s been done before. Most of the time we follow familiar patterns, even if not our own we know others have trodden them well. There’s nothing dangerous or scary lurking in the well trodden path.

Over there though, that’s unbroken territory. There be dragons….

Taming the Dragons

So we need a dragon tamer. A familiarity to soothe our fears. Enter the Startegy guru. Someone brave willing to enter unknown realms and draw us a map. Or better yet, teach us how to go boldly into strange and unknown worlds.

We need to embrace our fear and use its energy to take the sting out of the failure we fear. Failing is not our enemy, inertia and doing nothing are our enemies. Failing at doing things is our best teacher. Failing to do things is failing to live.

The Startegy Strategy

The Startegy concept is pretty simple. Do new things. Keep doing things until you find something that works.

There’s more to it than that, but that is the core. Try new things, accept that success is largely based on luck and perseverance, and keep on doing anything that you enjoy and seems to work. Be ruthless with anything that isn’t rewarding you for the effort you put in. Learn from the mistakes.

Rinse, repeat and feel rewarded from the things that worked for you.

The one thing that successful people have in common is that they did things. None of them were successful because they sat still.

I’ve done a lot of things with my career, and my personal life, and many of them haven’t worked. I had a period in 2010 when almost a decade of my working life was wiped out by the change of government. Projects I’d worked on cancelled, organisations restructured out of existence. That was more than half my career at the time.

It was demoralising, but then I reflected. I’d learnt a lot in that decade, and I’d achieved things. Everything I’d done I could do again, and I’d be all the better the second time around. And I was. A couple of years later I was in the first wave of government digital services, re-making systems and changing thought patterns. I failed at that too. More than once. But I reflected and learnt, and I helped others avoid my mistakes and make novel and interesting mistakes of their own.

I’m still doing that now. So can you. There are three things you can do to help.

  1. Try new things, experience the novelty and get used to breaking out of the safe, comfortable and familiar patterns.
  2. Encourage others to do the same, help them see new things they could do. If you have authority then give people permission and reward them for trying something different.
  3. Understand that failure is more valuable than success. It teaches us lessons, and makes us more proficient. The more we survive failures the less they inhibit future innovations.

Go on. Be a Startegist. Start something wonderful.

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