How often do you handle the valleys and hills?
Today is December 25 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is "How often do you handle both the valleys and the hills?"
People and organizations who navigate the chaos have figured out a way to handle both the hills and the valleys. Hills are considered the traditional challenges involved with translating an idea into action.
Valleys are the unexpected issues that come along when one is least expecting them. Some valleys result in a failure but those who navigate the chaos figure out how to build upon failures. Filmmaker Michael Cimino had to navigate both hills and valleys in his career.
As a brash young filmmaker in the 1970s who co-wrote the Dirty Harry film Magnum Force, Cimino made a name for himself with his 1974 debut, Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges. He followed that with The Deer Hunter (1978), a searing portrait of the haunting effects of the Vietnam War on the men and women of a Pennsylvania steel town. The film, which starred Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep, won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken).
Cimino followed his golden-boy success with the big-budget western, Heaven’s Gate. As CBS notes following his death in 2016, “Tales of the director’s profligacy seemed to forebode a failure, but no one was prepared for the monumental critical drubbing the four-hour epic received.
Heaven’s Gate became synonymous with box office disaster, and its failure brought about the collapse of its studio, United Artists.” Still, the movie has earned a critical reappraisal in recent years, and Cimino went on to film Year of the Dragon. “I never second-guess myself,” he told Vanity Fair in 2010. “You can’t look back. I don’t believe in defeat. Everybody has bumps, but as Count Basie said, ‘it’s not how you handle the hills, it’s how you handle the valleys.’”
How does one handle the valleys? Perhaps the most common method of dealing with the valleys, or failures, is to build upon them. Researcher Amy C. Edmondson noted several reasons for failure: deviance, inattention, lack of ability, process inadequacy, task challenge, process complexity, uncertainty, hypothesis testing, and exploratory testing.
In her April 2011 article in the Harvard Business Review, Edmondson wrote "The wisdom of learning from failure is incontrovertible. Yet organizations that do it well are extraordinarily rare. Organizations that catch, correct, and learn from failure before others do will succeed. Those that allow in the blame game will not." Once the cause of failure is identified, you can, in the words of Johnny Cash “build on failure…use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”