Back against the wall

Surrender and face certain defeat or fight back for the slimmest chance of victory. Sure, the odds are not in your favour. We would always prefer to avoid it.

No-one ever plans suffering, failure or defeat into their narrative. It’s uncomfortable. It feels like a bad omen, a lack of self-belief, or even a self-fulfilling prophesy.

By shying away from the possibility of failure we inadvertently set two forces of failure in motion.

  • We make it taboo to talk about or voice the feelings. This strengthens dominant logic and increases the chances of failure. We are closed off to the narrative and stymie the innovation in dialogue.
  • When it does occur, it takes us much longer to acknowledge and respond to the new reality. Partly because we have to get to grips with something that was not in our frame of reference. Partly because we have no go-to cheat sheet or checklist to help us deal with the situation.

Pilots run on checklists for every procedure they execute. Most of the time, they use the standard checklists to conduct normal operations. Even though, as a percentage of flight hours, they are unlikely to encounter significant problems, they still have checklists for almost all imaginable failures. When their backs are up against the wall, they have a fighting chance. Not only because they considered the possibility, but because they prepared for it.

How prepared are you for the thing you dare not speak of?

Ilario Piatti

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