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Why Successful Action Sometimes Still Leads to Failure

I recently had a bunch of blood tests done and I noticed that if the nurse inserted the needle just one millimeter off from the vein, he or she wouldn’t be able to draw blood no matter how much they poked around. But if the nurse was spot on, blood would be drawn with ease 100% of the time. The first time I got poked it was just to the left of the vein, and no blood was drawn. Then they’d try again and do it perfectly. So the next nurse that saw me saw two tiny holes in my arm and tried the one that didn’t work first. This pattern of getting poked twice instead of once continued until I discovered that if I simply told them, “this hole works, that hole draws nothing,” they would get it right 100% of the time.

Some of us are so used to measuring productivity by how much work we do, that it’s easy to get confused when hard work doesn’t lead to results. But, sometimes working hard is like trying to draw blood from a spot just millimeters off from the vein. It looks so much like it should work that it can fool three seasoned professionals, but in the end you get next to nothing even though they’re performing the exact same actions that lead to success when they find an angle that’s spot on.

Once you start differentiating between the circumstances (where, when, with whom, and what mood you’re in) that allow an action to be successful, and the circumstances that prevent success, you can more intelligently apply your efforts to achieve your desires. This is really easy when it comes to drawing blood, because it’s so obvious when you’re in the flow and when you’re barely getting a trickle. But, when it comes to achieving your goals, you don’t always know which actions are paying off and which actions look the exact same but yield nothing. Because sometimes it’s not the action that matters, but what that action taps into.

So what do you do when nothing seems to work and you still need to get results? How do you tap back into success and get the ball rolling? I’ll share my answer in the comments and I invite you to do the same!

1 comment… add one
  • Josh Billings

    I go into “survival movie mode.” When you’re stranded on a desert island, or your plane crash-landed on a mountain side, or aliens just blew up the White House, you don’t have time to cry over spilt milk. There’s an immediate and innate reaction to preserve any resources you have left and carry on as best you can.

    When I’m strapped for cash I switch to financial survival mode and start living off rice and beans. It’s like putting my phone on battery save mode until I can reach a charger. Instead of feeling impoverished I pat myself on the back for how I far I can stretch a dollar while still living a happy, healthy life.

    When I’m emotionally overwhelmed I get my body moving. I may not have control of my emotions right now but I can damn sure put one foot in front of the other and pump some fresh blood up to my brain.

    When I’m starting to get sick I stop what I’m doing ASAP, put on some uplifting audio and give my body a rest. I know that if I start giving my body what it wants right now it won’t have to throw a temper tantrum to get my attention. Just because my car is swerving out of the lane doesn’t mean I have to wait until I hit the guard rail before correcting course.

    Can anyone else relate? If you have examples of your own to share, or want to build off any of mine, I’d love to hear it!

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