In less than 10 words: from Fail to Win

Failure. Winner.

We love one, we hate the other.  And yet, it can be so elusive sometimes to get the one rather than the other. We want to do well on a project to impress our boss. We want to show our church leaders that we can put together a great event. We want to prove to our loved ones (spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, etc) that we will deliver big when they ask us to do something. We just want to want to known as a winner, as successful… as reliable, trustworthy, dependable, and etc.

I believe there is a way. I believe that everyone can be successful in whatever project, situation, setting, or etc that they might have.

When I was in high school, my father gave me a piece of advice that I’ve been trying to apply ever since. “Always under-promise and over-deliver.”

Now, they’re not a magic bullet and they won’t cure all ills. They certainly won’t turn you into an automatic, absolute winner who’s always successful. All the time. Everytime.

However, taking these words to heart will put us one step closer to being successful in whatever endeavor lies before us. The secret in that advice is learning to manage expectations.

Don’t over-promise…under-promise

When you over-promise (ie, finishing a project a day or two before a reasonable date, replying to an email right away, telling the wife on the first day that you’ll always do the dishes, etc), you create an expectation. When that expectation is not met, people then are reasonably disappointed. Anything less than reaching that expectation is considered a failure. What if you’re given a hard deadline? Well, under-promising would be saying that you’ll do your best to get it done on time. Over-promising would be saying that you’ll not only get it done on time, but that you’ll be able to produce everything and the kitchen sink! By under-promising, you’re lowering the expectation, which not only gives you larger margins to work with, it also pairs nicely with the next concept of…

Don’t under-deliver…over-deliver

The first part is managing expectations, whereas this part is delivering on expectations. Do what you were asked or what you promised and then more. Go the extra mile. Add in a little extra to that project. Finish a few hours or a day early. Over-delivering combined with under-promising results in your customer, your boss or those you’re leading to place their confidence in you. You are essentially exceeding their expectations and that is always a good thing. Remember, success, failure, good, bad…a lot of that is based off of subjective expectations that others and/or we place on ourselves.

So how does this work? Here are some quick examples:

Business– If you work in shipping, instead of trying to impress a customer by telling them that their product will arrive in 2 days (when you know that would be tight), tell them to expect the product to arrive anywhere from 2-4 days, but no later than 5. Then work your butt off to get it to them in 2-3 days.

Church– If, as a pastor, your church asks you to preach at the youth group on Friday nights, at the main service on Sunday morning and at the old-time service on Sunday evening, instead of agreeing with a forced smile, tell them that you can only handle youth group every Friday night and then two or three Sunday mornings a month. Then work your butt off during the week to create God honoring, scripturally faithful, Spirit-filled messages for those times.

Relationships– As a husband, instead of promising that you will always do the dishes (or pick any house chore for that matter), tell your wife that you’ll do your best to help around the house as much as possible. Then work your butt off to do all the chores around the house.

Personal– Instead of telling yourself that you’re going to start blogging every day (or go work out or run), start off by committing to two times a week. Then work your butt off to exceed that commitment. Or instead of telling a friend that you’ll respond to an email right away (even though you’re horrible at responding in a timely manner), tell him that you’ll get back to him within a few days.

Really, its all about managing expectations, and then exceeding them. Though, while in the end, you still need to deliver on the promise (and if you can’t/don’t deliver, nothing can help you!), I believe this advice from my father can help anyone take a step toward being more success in whatever they do.

So in less than 10 words, from Fail to Win…

“Always under-promise and over-deliver.”


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