What’s your failure quotient?

Failure quotient is a measurement of someone’s ability to fail intelligently.

It’s a new term, courtesy of blogger Donald Latumahina. Like IQ and EQ, failure quotient measures something useful for your career.

“It’s about being able to use failures to advance your life. The more you are able to do that, the higher your FQ is,” Mr. Latumahina writes.

He points to Thomas Edison, who failed in 10,000 attempts to invent the light bulb. “He didn’t view them negatively, though. Instead, he viewed it as finding 10,000 ways that didn’t work. He used them to point him in the right direction,” he writes.

There are eight characteristics on which to rate yourself. In order to have a high FQ:

  • Experiment a lot: Thomas J. Watson, who built IBM into a powerhouse, said the formula for success is to double your rate of failure. That requires experimentation, going beyond your comfort zone to try new things. Inevitably there will be failures, but that’s how you move to the next level.
  • Maintain enthusiasm in the face of failures: Failing never feels like fun. So you want to abide by Winston Churchill’s comment that “success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” You want to keep moving ahead when others might stop.
  • Have a long-term vision: You shouldn’t be failing randomly. Your actions should be aimed at a long-term goal. That will help unleash the passion and perseverance – the grit – to maintain your enthusiasm.
  • Choose the right experiments: Someone with a high FQ knows that their resources are limited, so they choose the right experiments. Restrict yourself to efforts that maximize your learning and bring you closer to your vision.
  • Fail fast and cheap: With resources limited, don’t get wrapped up in big, slow, cumbersome experiments. Even Google X, which has huge resources as a development arm of the famed tech company, subscribes to the mantra “fail fast and cheap.” Put in just enough resources to validate the idea so that if it works you can move forward.
  • Learn as much as possible from each failure: Make the most of each failure, as Thomas Edison felt he did, by learning from it. Use that information as you move ahead.
  • Iterate until you are awesome: Iteration should be your friend. Step by step you become better and better.
  • Pivot if necessary: Don’t get stuck in a rut, worried about what you have sunk into the effort so far. As Amazon founder Jeff Bezos puts it: Be stubborn on vision but flexible on details.

“As you can see, the concept of FQ is simple but it’s not easy to implement. It’s worth the effort, though. It can help you reach your full potential,” Mr. Latumahina concludes.

The five types of mentors you need

It’s well known that you should have a mentor. But venture capitalist Anthony Tjan thinks you need five mentors – or, at least, individuals who cover five important elements for your future success. “Rarely can one person give you everything you need to grow,” he says.

In a blog by Julia Fawal, the social content manager for Ideas.TED.com, Mr. Tjan warns that when you approach such people, you should remember that mentorship is a two-way street. Take the time to develop genuine connections to those you intend to work with, and assist them whenever you can.

Here’s what you are hunting for:

  • Master of craft: To be the best in your field, seek someone who is iconic in that area who Mr. Tjan says can be your Jedi master. That person should have experience and wisdom and be willing to share it. “They should help you identify, realize and hone your strengths toward the closest state of perfection as possible,” he says.
  • Champion of your cause: This person will talk you up to others, particularly in your workplace, so this might be more than one individual. These mentors are advocates who have your back and can connect you to useful people.
  • Co-pilot: This is your best work buddy who can talk you through projects, advise you on navigating the difficult moments and personalities in the office, and listen when you vent. It’s a reciprocal relationship. “You are peers committed to supporting each other, collaborating with each other, and holding each other accountable. And when you have a co-pilot, both the quality of your work and your engagement level improve,” Mr. Tjan says.
  • Anchor: This is your confidante and sounding board. He or she need not work with you or even be in the same industry – indeed, it can be a family member. They give you a psychological lift when you hit life’s speed bumps. They have your best interests in mind and can be insightful when you are uncertain or drifting.
  • Reverse mentor: This highlights that mentors need not always be older or senior in position. In fact, you can be mentoring someone who can make a valuable contribution to your own learning, keeping you fresh and relevant.

So don’t just find a mentor – find five.

Eight questions to ask in job interviews

Here are eight questions Glassdoor contributor Caroline Gray suggests asking in each job interview:

  • What do the day-to-day responsibilities of the role look like?
  • What are the company’s values? What characteristics do you look for in employees in order to represent those values?
  • What’s your favourite part about working at the company?
  • What does success look like in this position, and how do you measure it?
  • Are there opportunities for professional development? If so, what do these look like?
  • Who will I be working most closely with?
  • What do you see as the most challenging aspect of the job?
  • Is there anything about my background or résumé that makes you question whether I am a good fit for this role?

Quick hits

  • Take the really important stuff off your to-do list. Our to-do lists become giant repositories of tasks, so Oral Roberts University management professor David Burkus says you need to take the critical stuff off and put it in your calendar where it will get dedicated time.
  • To communicate effectively, consider the style of the other party. Trainer David Hiatt says to start by considering behavioural style, such as whether they are dominant souls. Also, are they being emotional, judgmental, or just exchanging information? Be sure you are working with, not reacting against, those tendencies.
  • Set intermediate goals that complement your long-term goals,  says U.S. Olympian Alan Culpepper.
  • A mistake is something you learn from  and, in doing so, will help you do better next time, says entrepreneur Seth Godin, whereas a marketing failure is a mismatch between what you built and the market. A problem is an invention waiting to be built – an invitation to find a solution.
  • To make your phone screen easier on your eyes, consider switching to greyscale.  It eliminates colour so you see apps in neutral hues. Also effective, but better known, is to try the “night shift” or equivalent feature.

The Globe and Mail, October 4, 2018