A breakthrough can be a wonderful milestone in anyone’s personal life. Or it can be a pivotal moment for a business.
As children, we accomplished several breakthroughs by age five. While those were monumental times, they were not walks in the park. Before we took our first step, we fell countless times. When we attempted to speak or feed ourselves the first time, we failed as well. However, we were never discouraged. We stood up and took another step until we had a breakthrough in each of them.
As adults, walking, talking and feeding ourselves are so common that we put very little thought into it. Once we mastered them, we moved on to other breakthroughs, like tying shoes, riding bikes, reading, writing, learning mathematics to name a few. However, before we could walk or do any of the others, we had many, many breakdowns.
Before we achieved anything significant, we experienced breakdowns or failure. As children, we are not deterred by breakdowns. When we watch an infant learning to walk it doesn’t appear that failing occurs as a problem or breakdown. Every healthy infant stands up to take another step, even if they cry from the fall.
As we get older and pursue our careers, we aspire to breakthroughs in salary, title and the prestige of the company that employs us. To achieve those career benchmarks, we volunteer for new assignments, take on new and more complex tasks and some focus on managing others. In the beginning, we are stretched. In fact, our performance can be mediocre at best. During the learning curve, we make what is called mistakes. Except, those mistakes or failures are no different than the breakdowns we experienced when we took our first steps. Like mastering walking, we too can master our careers.
In the face of mastering our careers, organizations are committed to producing breakthroughs that differentiate them in the marketplace. Most breakthroughs have no blueprint. If it does, it’s most likely an improvement to what already exists. Breakthroughs, on the other hand, require people to navigate through unknown territory. In that unknown territory, there are likely to be many breakdowns. Some are related directly to the service or product. In other cases, it is the result or miscommunication, exceeding budget and time or simply lacking the right answers for how to take the next step.
Whether it’s personal or professional, it seems the human experience is never void of breakdowns. Those who are courageous enough to walk through the breakdown are rewarded with breakthroughs at best. At worst, they will have learned lessons that can only be gained by the experience – pursuing breakthroughs.
While it seems counterintuitive to chase the breakdown, it appears almost impossible to avoid if you’re committed to breakthroughs. Yet, no one talks about the intentional breakdown they will create.
Perhaps mastery in breakthroughs has nothing to do with talent and intelligence. It may have more to do with people taking a stand for an outcome, even though they don’t know how to produce it. Thomas Edison may have summed it up best: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison seemed to have mastery in handling himself as well as others in the face of multiple breakdowns. It was as if he knew breakdowns were part of the process of producing breakthroughs. If each of us has been managing breakdowns since infancy, technically speaking, we should be masters at going through breakdowns to get to breakthroughs. What breakdown will you create today?