The Fine Line Between Success and Failure

by | Oct 28, 2020 | ShiftHappens

In a world of outcomes and data points we often measure success externally; How much money? How many people? How quickly?

Success is so often viewed quantitatively rather than qualitatively, with the underlying assumption that big means better.

This reminds me of an old story about an archery teacher and his students. This teacher was tasked in training the best archers of the time. He would refine their skills while giving them valuable life lessons beyond the bow and arrow.

One day he set up a test. He put a small target high up in a tree. The target had a small circle the size of a button in the center. The task was to shoot an arrow through the small circle.

He called each student up one by one, asking them to take aim. Then he asked what they could see. The first student responded, ‘I can see the sky, the tree, leaves, the target and the small circle in the center of the target.’ The teacher told the student to put down this bow and step back. The next student said ‘I can see birds in the tree, I can see the clouds between the branches, I can see the target and the small circle.’ Once again the teacher responded that the student should lower their bow and arrow and step back.

Finally he came to the last student and asked, ‘What can you see?’
The student responded, ‘I can see the small circle.’
‘Anything else?’ the teacher asked.
‘No. I can only see the small circle’
‘You can’t see the leaves, the branches, the sky?’
‘No. I only see the small circle.’
The teacher told the student to shoot the arrow. The arrow flew directly through the small circle.

One could say that success was in hitting the target. That’s the obvious lesson – not to be distracted in order to reach your goal.
However, there is nothing to say the other students would have missed – they were the greatest archers of their time after all.

To me this story speaks of something much deeper – the fine line between success and failure. It wasn’t about hitting the target. It was about getting your aim straight.

This is a valuable lesson for those of us who are committed to making a difference in the world. The outcome is important, but equally, if not more important, is having our aim straight.

One can ask themselves some simple questions:

What am I doing?
Who am I doing it for?
Why am I doing it?
May your alignment find congruence with your dreams!