Do you know what you did right?

Back in my days as a developer I spent long nights trying to understand why a program wasn’t working as expected. Bug fixing is tough but indeed, very rewarding. The tricky game is trying to understand why a software works. That can be quite complicated.

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” ― from Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

It’s the same for software. All working programs are alike, they work. While each bugged program is broken in its own way. And it’s the same for all our ventures, both the professional and the private ones.

When we fail, it’s common to search back for a reason. To learn from our mistakes but also to give peace to our wounded ego. When we succeed we are much less interested in the reasons. Maybe because we are too busy celebrating. Yet, it’s good to review also our successes to find some wisdom for the future.

A few weeks ago I made one of my dreams come true. I spent three weeks in Patagonia with my best friend. On the road for 5000 km. We collected a long list of unforgettable experiences and moments. I’ve been dreaming about this trip for more than 10 years. At some point I was almost sure it wasn’t going to happen. Then, I turned 40 and something changed. It took two years but I had my Patagonia’s adventure. Once home, I spent some time analysing the whole experience. From the very beginning to the moment we landed in Patagonia. I found a few factors that have been fundamental to bring this dream to life.

Make it real

Patagonia is not something abstract and indefinite. It’s a place. A real place with a name. You can find it on the map. There are plenty of photos, videos and articles online about Patagonia. All these elements allowed me to keep in my mind a clear image of my goal. I was able to visualise my destination and this has kept me motivated.

This adventure taught me the importance of clarity. Without a clear goal, you have nothing to look at when you find obstacles. You can’t understand how far you are and track your progress. It’s easy to get lost or demotivated. Try to make your goal as much real as possible. Give it a shape, and a name. Visualise it, print it somewhere. As long as you can keep your eyes on it, you won’t get lost.

Play together

The moment I shared my dream with my best friend, everything changed. As soon as it became our dream, it gained speed and momentum. We supported each other during the setbacks and pitfalls that we both had. We kept ourselves accountable. We pushed each other to move ahead without judgment and respecting our freedom. We shared the weight of the long preparation as much as we share the joy when we realised our dream.

This experience taught me that success has a lot to do with the people you surround yourself with. People that vibrate at your frequency. Who resonate with you and amplify your experience.

Push it out so it will pull you in

Two years before the trip we created a blog to talk about it. We didn’t have anything defined at that time. We just knew that we wanted so badly that we had to tell about this trip to everyone.

Once it was out, we were in.

It was public so there wasn’t any place to hide. Our friends felt in love with our idea, they started asking. This created some positive pressure on us. We had to do it not only for ourselves but also for all our followers that were looking at us. We made a promise, we were not going to disappoint them. It took more than expected, we had some issues and delays but we kept going.

This experience taught me the power of using others as a leverage to push ourselves. If you have a dream, be bold and don’t keep it between your ears. Once you decide your goal, declare it and commit in front of your friends. They will help you pushing through the obstacles.

The Pareto principle

A three week road trip in Patagonia requires a long and complex organisation. At least this is what we thought when we started planning it. We studied, we read books, we searched websites, we created long to-do lists, we talked with people, we designed a few plans on the map. We did all these things and a lot of others, for months. Yet we weren’t making any significant progress. Last summer, during an evening call, frustrated by the lack of progress, we took a bold decision. We decided to get rid of our long to-do list and focus only on three things:

  1. Define the days
  2. Buy the flights
  3. Book the car

We did the first two that same week. The third one a month later. This was almost the end of the preparation process. All the rest came effortlessly. And we added a lot of improvisation that made the journey a lot more exciting. According to the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule), roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. I don’t know if those three actions were the 20% of the whole work but they were the vital ones.

You need to identify the few vital things as soon as possible. Then focus only on them until they’re completed. The rest will follow.

“It is possible to fail in many ways … while to succeed is possible only in one way.” — Aristotle

That “one way” in reality is the compound effect of many different factors. In my case these four factors, among other that I don’t know yet, were essential for the success of my adventure. Had we missed only one of them we would be still here, dreaming. Instead we are now admiring thousands of pictures and wonderful memories.

What about you, do you know what you did right last time you succeeded? I would love to know more about your successful factors.