Dropping the ball doesn’t have to end in failure. In fact, we can often recover by taking quick and appropriate action.

What happens after failure sets our course.

First, let’s lay this out there – while nobody wants to drop the ball, we’ve all done it. We’ve all failed in some way, and so has everybody you’ve ever thought of as having been successful (except God, of course), primarily because we’re constantly juggling.

Maybe we’re not circus performers juggling bowling pins while monkeys throw flaming knives at our feet, but we juggle. We juggle projects and relationships and priorities. We juggle expectations. We juggle our schedules. And with all that juggling, we’ll almost certainly drop a ball, a bowling pin, or a chainsaw here and there.

That’s not an excuse, though, because dropping the ball can be a big deal. Some dropped balls, like nitroglycerine and chain saws, are “high-stakes.” They might push a job or promotion out of reach. Or be the reason we lose clients. Or undo years of hard work and permanently mar your reputation (or that of your business).

It’s what happens next

What we do after dropping the ball will define our course and can significantly influence the opinions of our friends, customers, and colleagues.  Our response can improve our reputation or kill it completely depending on whether we:

  • Cover it up
  • Rationalize it
  • Grow from it

While it seems easier to cover our failures up or to rationalize them, it’s always better to grow from them – to admit, analyze, and correct.  Sure, we might take some well-deserved heat, but in the end we will have done the right thing.

  • Admit – take responsibility for your part in what happened. Don’t cover it up. Don’t try to pass off the blame. Even if there were monkeys and flaming knives involved, call it what it is – a dropped ball.
  • Analyze – look at what happened and why. What could have been different?  Were there outside influences? Did you take on too much? Was it something you could never have finished? Did you lose your focus? Were you juggling too many projects?
  • Plan – figure out what habits you need to avoid dropping the ball. Do you need to be more aware our your abilities and capabilities? Do you need to manage your calendar differently? Do you need to learn how to set aside some projects gracefully?

I’ve dropped the ball

Actually, I can’t count how many times or how many ways I’ve dropped the ball. But I know that I dropped it last week because I didn’t post anything. Now, there were a number of reasons – largely related to scheduling and travel – but first I have to admit that I dropped it.

Nobody else dropped it and there were so many things I could have done differently. There were other things I could have left undone to get the blog written. But probably the best thing I could have done would simply to have let you know.

I do a lot of that at work – “managing expectations.” I routinely meet with people to let them know where I am on their projects. In fact, it’s surprising that I work so hard at managing expectations and still never thought of simply letting you know that I was running behind.

In the future, I plan to work ahead better by writing posts in advance and scheduling them to post regularly. That way unforseen scheduling problems won’t interrupt my posts.

So, that’s my three-step process:

  • Admit – I dropped the ball with the blog post
  • Analyze – It was because of scheduling and time management
  • Plan – I’ll be writing posts more in advance and I’ll let you know if I’m going to be late

How about you? Do you have any secrets for recovering from failure?

Photo credit: hbp_pix
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