So, there you are, trying to explain the orbit of the moon to your six-year old, and he demands, “Why does the moon have a light side and dark side?”
You ask yourself, “How in tarnation does my boy know to ask that?”
Tempting as it is to answer the question, we must turn to its application.
Look up at the moon in your mind’s eye, and you really can orbit the whole thing with your imagination, but whenever you’re actually looking at it, all you can see are, at most, 180 degrees of surface.
This is precisely the case over your successes and failures. When you only look at their first face, you can never know them in their fullness. The solution is to employ these 3 time frames:
Think of each as 120 degrees (one third) of the 360-degree challenge. Let me state the challenge definitively:
Everything has both a front and a back. To understand it, or to account for it, you have to walk all the way around. You have to remember the previous face while you look at the current one, in order to map out the whole thing, not just a part. When looking at one face, always remember there’s another.
To apply, first remember what you were thinking BEFORE you got started.
Second, walk through your thoughts and judgements, your decisions, actions, discipline and skills employed DURING the endeavor.
Third, capture your thoughts and emotions from AFTER completion, the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.
In the BEFORE work, you want to discover the root causes underlying the outcome. When you succeeded, find out what you did right at the beginning. When you failed, find out how you began the mission weakly, or worse, even wrongly, or even chose the wrong mission altogether.
In the DURING work, you’re looking for your virtues and vices, strengths and weaknesses, knowledge and ignorance, etc. You want to see them in action, or in non-action. By the way, non-action can absolutely be the cause of victory. Consider the words you DO NOT say when your temper has ALMOST gotten the best of you, but you kept your mouth firmly shut! That can be a great cause of victory and must be celebrated.
On the other hand, almost all failures entail wrongful non-action, where you just didn’t step up when you needed to.
Accounting for what occurred AFTER the outcome, we switch more from head to heart. A defeat without agony was very likely either beneath your capability or simply not an important mission. A victory without thrill can mean you just haven’t trained yourself to notice and celebrate. Or, it may mean you’re allowing your skills to age and not finding adequate new challenges. In either case, the lack of emotion is every bit as important as its presence.
In our ongoing work on accountability, we certainly seek scientific principles and bedrock solid cause and effect relationships, root causes. But, the power in the story is in your emotions. They are the climax and believe me, you want entertaining stories, well told, deeply felt, moving, honest and raw, and absolutely real.
By seeing the light and dark faces of your story, by flying a complete orbit around the moon of your mission, you build deep understanding, empowering you to rise ever higher in your performance. And you find the story that actually and really accounts for yourself and your efforts.