Avoiding failure and finding success

Shortly after the new year I began re-reading James Clear’s book, “Atomic Habits.” It was the season of resolutions, and to borrow from another well-known self-improvement book, it was time for me to “sharpen the saw,” and assess my capacity for, and sincere interest in, personal growth. In the process of reading Clear’s book, I signed up for his email newsletter and explored some of his blog content.

In a blog post on the topic of inversion thinking (a manner of thinking in which you consider the opposite of what you want), a subtitle stood out so much that I jotted it down in my notebook and eventually tore the top of the page where I had written it out and taped it to the desk in my home office. I’m not sure why I saved it at the time, maybe because I didn’t understand it, or I just wanted to think about later. Here’s what it said:

Success is Overvalued. Avoiding Failure Matters More.

Clear lays it out simply by saying, “Avoiding mistakes is an under-appreciated way to improve.” Inversion, he says, is particularly valuable in the workplace. “Leaders can ask themselves, ‘What would someone do each day if they were a terrible manager?’ Good leaders would likely avoid those things.”

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Indeed, it sounds simple and even a bit sarcastic. But, how often are we so focused on what success looks like that we don’t recognize failure when we see it in the distance?

I bring this up because so often in the LBM industry, the folks that I talk to who we all would likely deem successful have a fairly basic, yet motivating way of going about their daily work. Namely, they show up and do it the best they can. I see this in the dealer profiles that I write each month for our magazine, and I’m seeing it now in the nominations arriving for our 40 Under 40 program.

Consider this month’s Dealer of the Year profile. Here, Jay Andrew, president and co-owner at Henry Poor Lumber Co. and Flooring Express, says his team’s formula for success is “Clear, consistent communication, feedback, and interactions with everyone.”

Jay is a very smart guy. In fact, he’s smart enough to know that success, while involving a lot of hard work, is actually quite simple. Be open, honest, and consistent with everyone. Not doing so would be a failure in Jay’s mind.

Here at LBM Journal, we often hear a similar mantra from our Publisher and Executive Editor Rick Schumacher. “We run our race,” is what he likes to say. We know there are others running similar races of their own, and we know what failure might look like. As such, we’ve been quite successful.

As I mentioned, I see a lot of this same philosophy in the nominations coming in for our 40 Under 40 Program (learn more at LBMJournal. com/40U40 …the nomination period closes on March 31). Many of the nominees have said that they don’t know what their secret of success is, other than they show up, do their work, and be nice to other people. In my mind, anything less is failure.

Here’s to avoiding failure…because it leads to success.


— James Anderson

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