You Don’t Want to Succeed; You Want to Not Fail

Justin Spencer-Young
2 min readDec 8, 2022

Humans are like Zebras. Zebras have stripes so that they hide in the herd. It’s hard to pick out an individual.

You dream of success and achieving that great thing, but you make up a story that you will probably fail, so instead, you do nothing. Doing nothing is perfect because you will be invisible, and people will leave you alone. Deep down, that is exactly what you want.

The question is, how do you do just enough to eke out a living while you hide in the crowd and not get singled out as a failure?

One of the tricks you can try is instead of setting a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG), instead set the smallest goal possible.

The problem with a BHAG is you make up stories about how you could never achieve it.

What if you set a goal that is so small that you make it nearly impossible to fail?

For some, getting out of bed tomorrow can seem too daunting. Small goals are relative.

The benefit of achieving a small goal is still getting the dopamine hit. Writing the first two hundred words of that book you have wanted to share with the world is a fantastic start. The hardest thing is starting, and 200 words are as much as half the words on this page. It’s imminently achievable.

But now that you have started, your shadow will get to work to find a way to sabotage you.

It is important to stress that the goal remains very small. But more importantly, is that you remove all possible obstacles that might create friction and get in your way of achieving your small goal. Remember, you want that dopamine hit that comes from celebrating your achievement.

At first, when you set your small goal, you might be tempted to want to do it every day. Don’t fall into this trap. The trap is thinking the goal is small; therefore, you must achieve it often. That is a path to failure; your shadow will spot a weakness.

A rule of thumb is “skip a day, but never skip two days in a row.”

Following the rule of thumb, you get the perfect achievement balance while avoiding burnout. Remember what you want. You want to not fail. Achieving your small goal four times a week is a significant win that should be celebrated.

Time is a fantastic ally. Achieving your small goals week in and week out builds a consistent habit, and before you know it, you have advanced in leaps and bounds. Keeping a record of your regular “non-failures,” which you can look back on regularly, produces a secondary dopamine hit. You get to celebrate your no failure again and again.

Embrace hiding in the herd and being a non-failure by setting the bar low. Trying to do too much too quickly is a path to ruin and a surefire way to being overcome by that sneaky shadow.

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Justin Spencer-Young

Daily content creator at Fast Forward Business. Chief Valueologist. Fast Forward Business Podcast…look out for my daily podcast…a shot of value in your day