Explaining Away Failure
You can always continue to claim “success” if you can explain away your failures.
Let’s say that you’ve told all of your friends that you’re a brilliant pianist. You aren’t, you can barely play chopsticks, but you’ve told them that to impress them. Then you’re at a party and someone asks you to play. You sit down at the piano and pick away at the keys for a minute. It’s obvious you can’t play. But all is not lost! No, you can explain away your failure. Here are a few examples:
1. I’m having an off day, not feeling very well.
2. I sprained my hand a few weeks ago, still having problems with it.
3. My ex-wife is in the audience – I can’t perform with her around.
And so on. The possibilities are endless. Of course, you could actually buckle down and learn to play the piano, but making up excuses is lots easier. And you can continue to claim you’re a “brilliant pianist.”
It helps to have an enemy who is out to get you. Then you can blame failures on the enemy. It doesn’t matter if the enemy is real or not, just so you can make a convincing argument. Let’s say you are an investment adviser. You have promoted yourself as a brilliant adviser who can always pick the right stocks. Always. You get a lot of people to invest in a certain stock. Then it tanks. They lose all their money. But it wasn’t your fault! It was Jones Investing, your arch enemy. He sabotaged everything! You had it right, but then he sabotaged the deal!
Or let’s say you’re a mid-level executive in a large company. You’re assigned a very important project. Your job hinges on its success. Well, the first thing you have to do, as any real corporate power player knows, is to assign it to some junior. Then, if the project succeeds, you can claim credit, but if it fails, you can throw the junior under the bus and blame the failure on him or her. You’re “right” no matter what happens. If the project succeeds, you were right to assign them to it. It was your brilliance. If the project fails, then you’re right for spotting the incompetent, or the saboteur, and firing them!
And the brilliant part is, it doesn’t matter if the project or the company fails! You’re still right, and that’s the important thing, isn’t it?
And if you’re the top boss? Great, you can claim that you are surrounded by incompetents and hidden enemies. If a project fails, you can blame it on one of them. Just find a scapegoat and fire them. You had it right. Your ideas were brilliant, as always. They tripped you up!
Or let’s say you have a weight loss clinic. You claim that everyone who does this program loses weight. Everyone. But suppose that isn’t actually true, suppose only, say, 20% of the people doing the program actually lose weight. Well, you have to have a handy way to explain away the failures.
Like, just as an example, “you didn’t do the program correctly.”
“But I did just what you told me,” says the hapless weight loss customer.
“No, you didn’t do it correctly,” you say. “When done correctly, the program always results in weight loss. You didn’t get any weight loss, therefore you didn’t do it correctly. That’s obvious! Restudy the materials and try again.”
And if you can actually convince your customers that this is true, you’ve got it made. Now, any failure is their fault! You can then put them on an expensive “weight loss correction program,” at their expense, of course, since it was their fault that they “didn’t do it correctly.” With any luck, you can keep them on expensive weight loss corrections and redos and repairs for years, all the time raking in money. And blaming them for the continued failure. And if they give up and walk away, you can write them off as incorrigible malcontents – or enemy agents!
Of course, you could always buckle down and learn how to actually help people lose weight. You could actually admit your failures and use them to refine and further develop your methods. But that would be hard. That would require humility. It would require honesty. You’d have to actually admit that your brilliantly perfect program was possibly, just possibly, less than perfect.
And you’d have to actually want to help people lose weight.
But if you have a compulsion to make yourself and your agenda always right, to never, never, never admit the slightest failure, you can find more and more creative ways to explain those failures away. Then you can go on “being successful.”
And helping no one.
Sound like anyone we know?