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What if you had only one shot to do what you’re destined to do?

practice

Most of us have multiple opportunities to succeed at a task. Learning to drive, trying out that new dish you want to dazzle your family with at Christmas, rewriting an assignment or report: for almost any task we perform we can have multiple attempts to achieve what we consider ‘success’.

But what if you had only one chance to succeed, or fail? If the stakes were so high that not succeeding could define you? Would you approach the task differently?

Spacewalking astronauts have that conundrum. We talked a bit about space when we had two TU Delft aerospace engineering students staying with us over the holidays, my daughter Moana, and her boyfriend Martijn. Cryogenic propulsion, planetary orbits and other super-interesting topics that often went above my head. I borrowed their Chris Hadfield book, ‘An astronaut’s guide to life on earth’. The first Canadian to complete a spacewalk and previous commander of the ISS (International Space Station), Hadfield articulates the astronauts’ conundrum well: setting your life trajectory toward becoming an astronaut over decades, to practice and train for years to complete an important task in space that may take only several hours. How do you do it?

So, what if you had only one shot to do what you’re destined to do? You would prepare to the nth degree: look at all scenarios, do ‘pre-mortems’ (identifying what could go wrong), design out potential failures, develop fail-safe mechanisms, have easy checklists and procedures, and practice, practice, practice. You’d always keep an open mind, always seek input, always learn and you never become complacent.

There may not be a need to adopt this approach for all the tasks you perform, but what if you let a tiny bit of this approach seep into your habits and your way of working? What would be the impact on your tasks, methods, and results?

My experience is that organisations that introduce this mindset will steadily improve, and over time become leaders in their industry. You can too.

Credit and P.S.: Check out the background of this photo. An absolutely awesome picture from NASA that features Aotearoa – New Zealand! 

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People