Subtleties of Success

Through the hundreds of CEOs and Executives I’ve talked with, I’ve learned that each has a desire to build a unique company. One CEO described a desire to create a place where employees are being transformed in to all they were meant to be. Another CEO wants the customer experience to be the best in her industry and a third CEO described a desire to create a thing of beauty.

No matter what the desire, each person knows that a resolute commitment to persevere through breakthroughs and setbacks is part of the package. “If at first you don’t succeed try try again” is the language of entrepreneurship and risk taking.

Building a company is a noble endeavor and hitting the mark takes perseverance and tenacity.

So how do you handle “missing the mark”? When I asked a CEO this question today he said, “I internalize the stuff and I feel exhausted when I come home to my family – I guess I hold onto the disappointment.”

The ancient term “missing the mark” finds its meaning in archery, which can be an accurate metaphor for the process of bringing your vision to reality. The purpose of archery is to hit the target every time, or get as close as possible. So what does missing the mark actually involve?


An archer uses a bow to launch an arrow at the center of a target called the bull’s-eye. But, hitting the bull’s-eye doesn’t come easily for an apprentice archer. In fact, the chances of hitting the bull’s-eye with the first shot are practically nil. Nobody expects to hit the bull’s-eye in the beginning; only by mastering the subtleties of the discipline, can an archer put the arrow into the bull’s-eye or come close every time.

By converting our misses into practice, we relieve frustration and improve performance.

The most successful archers first learn how to use the bow and arrow, so that through long and frequent practice, which involves missing the mark most of the time, they develop a good sense of the subtleties: space, time, distance, wind, and other factors.

Like archery, CEOs and their leadership teams are working toward hitting their mark, but unlike archery, they rarely value their misses by formalizing practice. The subtleties of succeeding as a CEO can only be gained through practice: comparing intentions to reality and depending upon others who see more objectively to help us get better.

Creating a unique company is challenging to say the least. As you pursue your vision, you miss it most of the time but if you convert the miss to practice, you get closer.

The art of practice has been lost and that’s why PracticeField exists. Like the CEO I talked with today, internalizing disappointments is one way to deal with them, but very little value is harvested. Would you like to learn to practice? As always, I’d love to know your thoughts.


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