You’ve made the decision; you’ve stepped into the arena.
You’re fully aware of what this means – there will be pain, setback, and failure.
But running blindly into battle isn’t the point. Any ‘go-getter’ can take an idea and run with it straight into oncoming traffic.
No, the skilled fighter understands that while he will take a beating, that’s not his job – his job is to give a beating.
The point of accepting future failure isn’t to justify recklessness; it’s to prepare accordingly to ensure success.
Before conducting any form of operation, military leaders do something called Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield, or IPB for short.
The purpose of IPB is to identify failure points.
IPB is a process where military leaders define the battlefield environment, describe what effects the battlefield will have on friendly and enemy forces alike, evaluate the enemy threat in the area, and determine possible enemy courses of action.
Its purpose is to let us know where we are weak and where we are strong, but most importantly, to let us know where we are most likely to fail.
Here’s how you can apply IPB to your project so you can:
- Identify future failure points
- Prepare for the future failure
- Overcome any (and every) failure along your path to success
The following are 4 simple steps to identify and overcome failure before it happens:
Defining the Battlefield
Before we dive straight into writing our epic 1,000 page novel, it behooves us to take a step back and consider the environment where we do battle.
If you’re writing a 1,000 page novel, you’re not in the comic book arena. Nothing a comic book writer says should affect your writing.
If you’re building a new monthly subscription / web-based software platform, you’re not in the digital download arena. Your content is web-based on purpose; people pay to use it monthly and expect all the benefits of cloud based service. Nothing a digital download developer says should affect what you create.
If you’re the CEO of a small startup that sells rubber kettlebells, you’re not in the treadmill arena. You’re also not in the free weight arena. Your product is very specific and serves a very specific audience.
Key Takeaway: Identify your area of operation and your left and right limits. Make sure you know your objective, what you’re doing, and how you plan to get there. Avoid distractions. If you don’t, you might find yourself wildly off course and months behind deadline because you wandered into someone elses battle space (i.e. started drawing pictures instead of writing).
“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.” [Napoleon Bonaparte]
Effects of the Battlefield
Once you understand where you’re doing battle, you can begin to analyze how the battlefield will affect you and the Enemy.
If you’re writing a novel, the journey is long, lonely, and has virtually no intermediate reward. The payoff, if any, will be at the end. This can break even the strongest spirit.
On the contrary, writing a novel is a solo project and requires virtually no capital. You don’t need a team, just yourself. The downside risk is limited, the upside potential unlimited.
The Enemy benefits from the long journey (more chances to stop you, break you, and make you quit), but because there are less moving parts, the Enemies efforts to disrupt your progress will be limited.
The small business owner has a team to support him, but more moving parts mean more possible failure points.
The Enemy can’t use the same psychological warfare on the person with a small team that he can use on the solo writer, but he can create even more diversions by making the owner focus too much on one aspect of the problem, or get him to sidetrack the entire project to work on a tertiary aspect of the business.
Key Takeaway: Get to know the environment you’re working in so you can better prepare yourself for the (inevitable) Enemy attacks. Understand that every battlefield environment can benefit you in some way and hinder you in some way. Never forget the same goes for the Enemy.
Evaluate the Enemy Threat
This one is a given.
You’ve entered the arena. This is where fights take place.
Only a fool would enter the arena not expecting another gladiator to emerge.
Key Takeaway: Analyze and study the Enemy. Know you will encounter the Enemy. Find ways to break the Enemy faster than he can break you.
“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” [Sun Tzu]
Enemy Courses of Action
By using historical examples from your own experience and others who have gone before you, you can predict with relative certainty how the Enemy will try to thwart your plans.
For the writer, the Enemy will use psychological operations to destroy morale. The Enemy will taunt the writer telling him he can’t make it, his work isn’t’ good enough, he doesn’t know anyone in the business, and who is he to even try. The Enemy loves using status quo propaganda against the writer, and will constantly work to stop the writer from doing what he must do: write.
For the entrepreneur, the Enemy will use disruptive bad habits to destroy the project. The Enemy will focus on developing poor time management skills in the entrepreneur. The Enemy will create disruptions and diversions by drawing attention to tasks that don’t need to be completed (to actually ship the product), or superficial time wasters that have no impact on the success of the venture. The Enemy will keep the entrepreneur from doing the one thing every entrepreneur must do: sell the product.
Key Takeaway: Predict possible Enemy attacks so you are better prepared to deal with them. Knowing how the Enemy will attack allows you to counter the attack and finish your project on time.
The big question:
Have you identified your failure points?
If not, you’re betting on luck to get you through to the end.
Take the time to identify your failure points and prepare yourself ahead of time.
Your success depends on it.
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