• Chris Tran

Always too early to surrender.

I found myself in a no-win situation. My company had assigned me a target that was impossible.

And the worst thing about this target? I had set it myself last year, and I hadn't factored in some key variables.

My targets were locked, and I was staring failure in the eye.

  • I swore.

  • I struggled.

  • I despaired at the past me that had been careless and sabotaged the present me.

  • I wanted to run away.

Instead, I took a personal day and took a long nap. Which was a strategic retreat so I could get some emotional distance.

When I woke, I got to work. My target wasn't going away, and I had programmed my brain that action was always better than inaction. I could be depressed AND working on things, and the anguish would dissipate eventually over sustained, directed, effort.

I got aggressive on my targets with this new process.

1. Determine the consequences of failure.

2. Figure out what the limitations are in getting to success.

3. Recruit together a team and marshall resources to attack those limitations.

4. Fight until win or fail..

What were the consequences of failure?

  • Get fired.

  • Get demoted.

  • Get a lesser bonus.

  • Boss realizes that the target was a bad forecast.

Of the four, the only one that would ruin my year was also the least likely. It is difficult to imagine myself being fired for a bad forecast. My management had always been fair, and understood that an uncooperative market can overpower your best efforts. Outlining the worst consequences lightened my emotional weight. Sheer, career terror creates a mental fog which cripples the brain.

It is difficult to plan when you are stuck behind a mist of imagined failures.

What limited my success?

I honestly didn't know. The forecast was big, but I had been too emotionally overwhelmed to take a hard look at the number. I remodeled the number and found that though the target was more than a stretch, it wasn't absurdly impossible. Just mostly impossible. There were outs if I could expand my product lines and expand my team.

I recruited a team. My expanded team got me more resources.

In describing a team, it wasn't just people who reported to me. I discussed my concerns with my boss and told him how I was going to attack my target. My manager also would suffer if I missed my targets, so he was a more than willing teammate. I talked to related department heads, and they volunteered team members. And as I shared my targets with more people, the more resources I got access to.

My team and I fought together. We got close to success.


And there it is. I didn't succeed. I got close enough by clearing my emotional distress and bringing in other team members and collaborators to help me. My manager was not my biggest threat, and instead, my greatest ally in making my impossible target almost achievable.

And I received a modest bonus along the way as well!

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