Avoiding a no fail mindset

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Andrew Burgos
  • 436th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron

“In pursuit of great, we failed to do good.” – Viktor, ARCANE Season 1.

It’s funny how we can find inspiration in the most unlikely of places (i.e., a TV show). When I first heard this quote, I was taken back at how much it rang true and echoed in every facet of my military career. I’ve had many discussions with peers about the negative impact a “no fail” mindset can have on the development of our Airmen. It is inherently unrealistic and leaves out a key ingredient of growth. I believe this mindset is a learned behavior and comes from our expectation of perfection and an unhealthy perception of our core value excellence in all we do. Aside from trusting first, being vulnerable and leading with humility, I wanted to share some advice I keep close to my heart that has helped me avoid a no fail mindset.

Learn to recognize when it is time to get out of the way. Thinking that you have all the answers or always know better can create blind spots and stunt others’ growth through trial and error. We have a habit of clinging to systems, processes and ideas long past their usefulness. It is that feeling of familiarity and comfort that can create the most problems, because when we fail to change, we succeed at becoming irrelevant. This is one of the reasons why many great speakers and mentors push people to get out of their comfort zones. Resist complacency, feed your drive and stay relevant.

Know the difference between preference and requirement. Holding on to too many preferences can negatively impact autonomy and create a culture that lacks the confidence to make decisions. Try to remember who is closest to a problem and who will be doing most of the heavy lifting. Our goal as a force is to create a culture of empowerment and train leaders who will replace us. As a part of a larger collective or vision, we must remember to set our preferences aside and take a chance on new innovative ideas and people.

With that said, have the courage to act when it is time to step up. Stop waiting for opportunity to land in your lap, because an open door is just a view until you decide to walk through it. Keep pushing forward and communicating your readiness to take on new responsibilities. Never be defeated by denial because sometimes a “no” can simply mean “not right now,” and a failed idea can easily be translated to a successful attempt at identifying possibilities that don’t work. At the very least, help others succeed you. If you find that you are not ready for a position or new rank, or that you are happy with where you are, then maybe your purpose is to train others to be and do better. Find a purpose and own your craft.

For those of you who need to hear this, as I once did, a good friend and mentor once told me, “If you have ever felt that your best isn’t good enough, just remember that your worst is often times better than other people’s best.” During those conversations, I grew to realize that the main differences between the “bare minimum” and a “best practice” are intent and effort. Don’t hate yourself for not being good at something, be angry with yourself for staying that way. We all have a lot more time, energy, strength and control over our lives than we give ourselves credit for. It boils down to a mindset (e.g., I have to vs. I get to) and a commitment to hold yourself accountable for the choices you make in reaching your goals. Stay strong and remember that failure is part of growth and can often lead to great discoveries. As Bob Ross once said, “They’re just happy little accidents.”