Learning now vs success/failure

This resonated with me this morning:

Roethlisberger argues that people who are preoccupied with success ask the wrong question. They ask, “what is the secret of success” when they should be asking, “what prevents me from learning here and now?” To be overly preoccupied with the future is to be inattentive toward the present where learning and growth take place. To walk around asking “am I a success or a failure” is a silly question in the sense that the closest you can come to answer is to say, everyone is both a success and a failure.

Source:Weick, Karl E. How Projects Lose Meaning: The Dynamics of Renewal. in Renewing Research Practice by R. Stablein and P. Frost (Eds.). Stanford, CA: Stanford. 2004.

Reflecting on this a little more, sometimes it may be better to ask “what am I experiencing now?” and see if the learning emerges from that. I’m in a Zen frame of mind I guess.

Hat tip Bob Sutton, via David Smith.

2 thoughts on “Learning now vs success/failure

  1. Chris Corrigan

    Cool…one of the editors of that book, Peter Frost, was my father in law and Karl Weick was his mentor. This little post just reminds me of the great conversations I had with him when he was alive. Hmm. Been five years since he died and still missing him!

    Thanks for this.

  2. Simon Goh

    Totally agree that we should pay emphasis to the present. As with knowledge management initiatives, it’s really no point to be too hardup on 3 years roadmap, where the outlook into the organisation’s direction and focus is gray. Why not we look into the current sticky pains instead which are tangible and actionable, and build sustainable plans for addressing them.


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