Atomic Failures – How to overcome Daily Failures to achieve Great Work

The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the old seven wonders of the world. It is 481 feet tall with 23 Lakh blocks of milestone and Granite. It looks great on the outset. But it took the workers 20 years to build and with hundreds or thousands of workers. At the Atomic level, it must be like us. Going to the office and working with set working hours, rules and daily expectation for. To build the great pyramids, every day has to be done right with all these people over 20 years to make it a world wonder.

Leonardo da Vinci hardly completed most of his paintings. He attempted his skill in engineering, warfare design which never saw the light. Many of them are impossible in reality. Leandro has made a lot of attempts with many failures and few successes. He is an ordinary man with an enthusiastic outlook on life and a countless number of experiments. He must have looked like this if you are with him. Every day he goes to his work, draws a few things until he is satisfied. Moves on to some other project leaving the current project midway.

Willpower is like a muscle, you need to build it up over time.

The difference between people doing great work and mediocre work lies in their daily routine. They handle their daily failures differently. We look at the grand scale of things which are outputs of a long haul by the creator(s). When you do something every day, you will have a lot of failures. You are bound to produce crappy work. You are bound to have unproductive days. You are bound to have shitty people hitting your road. You are bound to have your expectations shattered when you do not have the results you expect. Not handling the failures you get an on a daily basis is your Atomic Failures.

Most people who succeed have a lot of failures. Edison had 10,000 failures before he invented the light bulb. Steve Jobs got kicked out of his own company.  Imagine you sitting next to Edison and seeing him fail for 100 times or 500 hundred times. You will give up on him. Imagine sitting next to Steve Jobs after he was kicked out of Apple at age 30. You might have thought, that is how he must be treated for his arrogance. It is easy to talk about grand failures when a grand success is followed. What is hard is to keep going through the repeated Atomic failures on a daily basis and keep moving forward.

If you are on a diet, Atomic Failure looks like biryani or an Ice cream you had. If you are trying to do deep work, then Atomic Failure looks like a WhatsApp notification. If you are trying to write, your Atomic Failure looks like a Youtube trailer.  Atomic failures aren’t something that looks monstrous. It is a distraction from your actual work repeatedly. These Atomic Failures will stop you from making great work.

Here are a few ways for you to get through Atomic Failures to produce great work

Meditate on Instant Gratification Vs Delayed Gratification.

Neil Gaiman who wrote over 45 short fiction novels said

“If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not.

You have to write when you’re not inspired. And you have to write the scenes that don’t inspire you. And the weird thing is that six months later, a year later, you’ll look back at them and you can’t remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you just wrote because they had to be written next.The process of writing can be magical. Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another.”

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If you decided to work out every day. Go even you feel like skipping and relaxing a bit. When you sit down to write, start writing Instead of scrolling your social media or watching youtube. If you decide to save money. Stop spending on things you know are not needed. Every day. Even if it makes you feel sick about it.

Don’t Be Hard On Yourself

Joel Gascoigne CEO and Co-Founder of Buffer App wrote in his blog said.

“What I’ve realized, is that one of the key parts of building habits might be to know that you will not flawlessly create your habits. You are going to break your habit at some point, you are going to fail that next day or next gym session sooner or later. The important thing is to avoid a feeling of guilt and disappointment because that is what will probably stop you from getting up the next day and continuing with the routine.”

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It is crazy to want to be like a machine instead of thinking like a human. One failure or series of Atomic Failures doesn’t mean you need to stop attempting it. Sometimes you need a break from your routine. It is okay to relax a bit once in a while from whatever you have planned to do. Don’t feel guilty about skipping your gym, breaking your diet, spending more once in a while when you are on a budget. Go back to the routine the next day.

Test The Waters

Charles Darwin dropped out of college because he is too distracted. In his Biography, he wrote

“I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect.”

If he tried to be the best in his college and not drop out, we would have missed on great discoveries of the world species. Test the waters before you take up something. Sometimes you may come back to it after months or years. You won’t go back to it at all. Give everything a test run and see if you start enjoying it. If yes,  then start building routines. If not, two things will happen. 1) you will find yourself stressing yourself to avoid Atomic failures. 2) You get Atomic failures and that may hit your self-esteem.

Have A Mindset: Self-Esteem

If you are sure of getting better at something, you need to overcome your Atomic Failures. Have Self-Esteem to do it.  

If you want a healthy body, you need to keep up with good food and exercise routines. You may screw it up a lot first few times. You are not used to those routines before. It would take a while to come up with that routines mindset. Don’t quit attempting. Keep coming back immediately or after a while.

Know Your Velocity

Failure means not reaching your expectations. If you are having wrong expectations, you are bound to fail.

Malcolm Gladwell in his Master Class says. Don’t be hard on yourself by keeping higher targets. Writing is creative work and it is hard to work more than four hours on a creative process. You get the Idea right?.

Stephen King can write 6 pages every day and completes a novel in 2-3 months. While George R. R. Martin author of Game of Thrones sometimes finishes only 3 chapters in 6 months. Know your velocity and plan accordingly. Going with someone else velocity will make you feel you are having a lot of Atomic Failures.

Measure and Control  Your Inputs

Jeff Bezos in one of his Interviews with Henry Blodget said, he can control the business Inputs. But the business outputs which is revenue, growth and other factors cannot be controlled. He says he would love to get smooth returns every quarter but he says that is not how it works.

Instead of trying to measure your outputs. Have Input goals. You cannot control if your book will become a bestseller. But what you can control is how many pages you can write every day. You cannot control your regulation of weight all the time. But you can control how many times you want to exercise on weekly basis.

Your Input measures should become your success criteria, not the outputs.

Bonus: Just Not This Time.

Every time I crave for food that I should not be eating. I would say myself, I would eat it but just not this time. If I want to skip the gym, I would say myself, I would take a break, but just not this time. It pushes me towards my goal. If I could do it almost every day and every time, It would be more than 350 days in a year keeping me on my routine giving an exception for at least 15 times that year(Still huge cheating right?). Try the – ‘Just not this time’ routine and let me know how it worked out for you.

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