I’ve learned to question success a lot more than failure. I’ll ask more questions when sales are up than I do when they’re down. I ask more questions when things seem to be moving smoothly, because I’m thinking: “There’s got to be something I don’t know. There’s always something.” This approach means that people don’t feel beat up for failing, but they should feel very concerned if they don’t understand why they’re successful. I made mistakes over the years that taught me to ask those questions.
People tend to attribute failure to external factors and success to their own abilities and performance (see self-serving bias and Dunning-Kruger effect.) The human brain is indeed riddled with cognitive and memory biases that are conducive to making people feel like they’re good and capable, regardless of reality.
Idea for Impact: Luck is so much more important than we acknowledge. Most successes and failures in life combine both skill and luck. Understanding the relative contributions of skill and luck in failure—and success, as Cole suggests above—can help you judge past and present results and, more significantly, prepare for future results.