Murphyjitsu Template

Ever tried, ever failed. No matter. Try again, fail again, fail better.

—Sam Beckett

No matter your profession or hobbies, making plans is always something you will have to do. You may as well be good at it.

However, it is very easy to fail at making a plan. You have to be able to predict all the ways in which your plan could fail, and you have to be able to effectively counter those failure modes, and you have to mitigate the consequences when you fail to counter a failure.

Step 1: Pick a project

Murphyjitsu also works well with plans or goals.

Step 2: Next steps

What the Next Action you would need to take to keep this project/plan/goal moving forward? It should be concrete enough that you can picture yourself doing it, not something vague like “work out more.”

Step 3: Surprise-o-meter

What is the next action you need to take to keep this project/plan/goal moving forward? Visualize putting this action in motion, then ask “How surprised would I be if this plan failed?” If you’d be shocked, then you’re done! Otherwise continue to step 4.

Step 4: Premortem

Imagine the future: your plan didn’t work! And it failed at the stage of the next action you wrote in Step 3! What happened?

Step 5: Use looking forward

What action would you have had to take to prevent this particular failure mode? Visualize taking this preemptive action and then ask “What comes next?” Have you successfully defused the danger? Did you create a new weak point to patch?What comes next?

Step 6: Iterate

Repeat steps 3 -5 several times (sometimes this technique is called “Simulate 17 times, act once”). What else might have gone wrong? What could have prevented it? You’re battle-hardening your plan against happenstance and poor habits. Remember that this should be very quick — all “17” iterations should take maybe a few minutes total.

Step 7: Fail better

Grab three pages from a notebook, Google Doc, etc.

On page 1, revisit every failure mode you discovered through step 6. Assume that your plan to prevent them fails. How can you repair the damage (even a little bit)? Who could you ask for help? None of our plans are foolproof, and we set ourselves up for disappointment if we don’t acknowledge this.

On page 2, write out what might be the benefits of an attempt or a partial success? (Higher discipline, skills...). While it’s important to be realistic, we also don’t want to lose all motivation when we fail. This is how we will try to salvage any possible failures.

On page 3, write out the cost of inaction: (Emotionally, physically, financially, etc.), over the course of three time spans:

  1. 6 Months
  2. 1 Years
  3. 3 Years

This is meant to kick us back into gear if dwelling on failure modes saps our motivation. While there may be costs to failure, the costs of inaction are often greater.

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