You wake up every morning to a beautiful park and geysers going off. One morning it turns into a full blown volcanic eruption. Lesson learned, invest heavily in geological research ;).
You've worked at a place for a number of years, and put in great effort to make things run smoothly. Then sudden cutbacks force the closure of your division. You perceived that your position and employment was steady and reliable. But the reality is you're not in control of your work life, and are out of a job because of upper management decisions. Lesson learned, no matter what threats a company has against you looking elsewhere for work, find away around their barriers, and keep an eye out for opportunities where you are in charge of your bottom line. An alternative is starting a business or consulting.
You're putting in crazy hours on your new startup project but not making any progress. You perceive motion, but aren't taking needed actions to get you closer to your goal. Prioritizing the stuff that matters is critical to building a successful business. And many of the best entrepreneurs experience failure a number of times before building a legendary business (thanks Steve Blank, you're an info sharing rockstar). Lesson learned, review how each action or planned action will bring you closer to the goal.
Features versus Bug Smashing
Your nascent project is taking off and looking fantastic, you can't imagine all the possible directions you can help take it. You perceive that its awesome! Then your product server crashes, and you're not sure why. Anyone brave enough to test the product is out of luck until its fixed. Lesson learned, build in a system of rigorous testing and don't expect things to run smoothly from the get go.
What we can do to prevent or adjust before we derail
The above scenarios, and I'm sure you can imagine many more, are cases where our perception is not equal to reality. We put on our rose colored glasses, drank the cool aid and believed what we wanted to believe. It turns out good old mother nature (reality) has a way smacking us over the head when we fall prey to self delusion. The key to staying ahead of the system meltdown is to critically examine our assumptions and observations on a regular basis. One of the best ways to shake down your ideas, is to regularly vet them to a small group of trusted friends. My friends are kind enough to tell me many of my ideas are bat shit crazy. Sometimes I'm smart enough to listen to them :).
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