Given how badly people want to succeed, it always amazes me how many people set themselves up to fail. I know they don’t do it purposefully. I mean, really, who would do that to themselves (the answer to that might surprise you)? In general, I think that most people just don’t know what setting yourself up for success looks like. I mean, you can just study what successful people look like, right?

One of the issues with studying successful people is that in general you’re studying what they’re doing NOW and what they’re doing NOW isn’t super related to how they became successful. In fact, we often look at people that are successful and try to emulate them and when we can’t almost immediately get to the same place that they are, we think we’re a failure and we shut down. It’s not a good place to be.

Now there are people that you CAN study as a case study on what success looks like. There are people who teach you how they went from zero to hero. And those people are great, but they don’t often come cheap. People that figured out how to make money from nothing are generally smart enough to know that they can make money from you. And that’s fine…if you’ve got the money to pay for it. But what if you don’t. I think that everyone can learn how to plan for success. I think that you have to think about three things when you’re planning for success.

You’re The Least Important Person

You need to realize that if you are creating a product or service, that product or service is FOR someone. Now while I do believe that you need to be true to yourself and your art, I also think that we’re talking about success. So if success for you is that people like what you make or buy what you make then what YOU think, in the end, is not really that important.

“I Don’t Know” Is Your Best Friend

People who aren’t capable or comfortable with saying “I don’t know” are destined for failure. The fact is that people don’t think you’re dumb if you don’t know the answer to an important question. People think you’re dumb if you don’t ask a question that you know is important. Imagine that you’re at someone’s house and you need to urinate. Do you wander around their house looking for a room that resembles a bathroom and hoping that you find it before you wet your pants? If “yes”, I’m never inviting you to my house. Also, you’re an idiot. No one does that. If you need that answer and someone has that answer why would you not ask that question?

Learn To Quit, Early An Often

Your idea is not “til death do us part”. I think that you need to push the limits of the human condition until you can’t possibly bleed or cry anymore…but once the horse has died, get off. When you know that something is going to fail (and be honest, you know when something is going to fail) walk away. Don’t try to be the hero and save the sinking ship. Leonardo DiCaprio might be the hero in the movie Titanic but remember, that ship went down and Leo drowned in the ocean. Don’t be Leo.

Failure is ok but don’t fail because you didn’t do everything you could. Fail because it didn’t work, not because you didn’t work. Fail because the world didn’t know what to do with what you made, not because you didn’t know the answer to a question. Don’t plan to fail by failing to plan.