Piece by piece

You’re shocked, disappointed and frustrated. You begin to think life is so unfair. You did all the research required. You were even asked the exact questions you practiced. It really was a great interview and “all” went well. Or so you thought. But by some mystery, you did not make the final cut, even though they said you were good.

How could they not hire you! You are tempted to call and tell them they either made a mistake or even worse, it’s their loss.

Paul Arden, and many others think differently. In his best-selling book “IT’S NOT HOW GOOD YOU ARE, IT’S HOW GOOD YOU WANT TO BE”, Paul Arden shares a true story of how his ad agency was one of six companies to be short-listed for a government account. His agency spent three months working on the campaign. They were due to pitch their concept on a Friday, but at 5pm on Wednesday, they were told their agency didn’t make the cut for the final three.

Do you think they gave up and said, we were not lucky this time, maybe next time? No, they didn’t!

Instead, Paul convinced his CEO to tell the client they had another campaign prepared and they were willing to show the client at 9am on Thursday. Matter of fact, they didn’t have any new campaign. They lied. But they made sure the team met at 8am the next day and worked through the feedback the client gave on why their original campaign did not make the cut for the final 3. They then came up with a new campaign. Guess what? By Friday, they had turn things around and their agency ultimately won the account.

My question to you is, do you think you can get over the disappointments and ask if your best was really enough? Probably not. And that is where most people miss it.

But, I hope for your own sake that you do ask why and find ways to improve and be better.

Paul Arden’s story goes to show that it’s not just about the preparation before, but the analysis after is even more crucial.


Take, Bobby Fischer for instance. He was one of the best chess players of all time. He was talented, but he wasn’t exactly the best player growing up.


At he age of 13, he “disappeared”. He went into hiding and thoroughly studied all the games played in the 17th century. When he reappeared to play, he became great. He adopted some of the “old-fashioned” methods from the 1850s, but he would infuse his own little improvements he had developed along the way.

He “disappeared” again after he was US Champion. This time, he spent time learning Russian so he could read all the Russian chess magazines. He will study his matches after and analyze how he can make it even better next time.


How much time are you spending honing your skills? Do you assume you have “arrived”, so you don’t want to learn anything new or revise the old? Or you truly believe in not fixing anything that is not broken.

If all you have are the old skills that got you wherever you are now, don’t assume it will automatically get you further next time.

Einstein aptly puts it this way; “there is nothing that is a more certain sign of insanity than to do the same thing over and over and expect the results to be different”

Mick Jagger’s band, The Rolling Stones made over $600 million on their last tour, but when they started over 50 years ago, they would perform at over 200 places yearly for almost no money. They were honing their skills.


The Beatles also played for about 20 hours a day, 7 days a week at various strip clubs in Hamburg, West Germany from 1960 to 1962. They were honing their skills.

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Benjamin Franklin said, “I haven’t failed, I’ve had 10,000 ideas that didn’t work”

Thomas Edison also notes that, “Of the 200 light bulbs that didn’t work, every failure told me something that I was able to incorporate into the next attempt”.

If you want to be great, achieve mastery, dominance, world-class status and to be known as the best, then go through your various experiences and analyze them piece by piece.

Anything less, will make you good and soon your good will not be good enough reducing you to average.

Life might not be fair, but be fair to you. Learn, unlearn and relearn. Do the work, piece by piece.


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