Don't care don't try.
For as long as I can remember, my mantra has been to do the best you can with what you have. It constantly nudges me to look in the mirror and ask if I've done my best. External results are not my barometer. Results can be outstanding, but I know I could've done better. Conversely, results can be disastrous and I know that I've given it my all. My litmus test is always the mirror.
With others I don't know if they have given their best. Only they can answer that. So, for others I use a simple failure test. And the only answer that matters is theirs. Did you care? Did you try your hardest? If either answer is no, you failed.
And what if you fail using my definition? You've gotta care and try next time. Simple.
If you did care and try and still messed up, try not to frame it as failure. It was a mistake. What do you do with mistakes? Own them, take a deep breath, tap into your logic to understand what happened, and change what needs to be changed. Don't beat yourself up. Try again.
Here's an example…
Early in my career I received a call in a conference room during a team meeting. A call into a conference room was odd. I noticed it was from a California area code which was also odd. I answered and heard my boss's voice on the line. “What's the plan for my All Hands Meeting today in San Franciso?” Steve asked. My heart dropped into my stomach and stayed there. My team watched me turn white. I’d completely forgotten about this event. Only thing I could do was tell him the same and added some words I won't repeat here.
This sucked. I'd completely screwed up. But no time for figuring out how this happened. I jumped into trouble-shooting mode and we came up with a make-shift plan. Steve made the most of his visit under the circumstances.
I cared a lot about my job and was giving it my all. This complete oversight made me aware that I was trying to do too much. So, in this case I did care and was trying very hard and completely failed, or, eh I mean, made a mistake. It felt like failure for sure.
So, should I have stopped trying?
Of course not.
Care. Try. Do your best. Repeat.
And never forget, “Great things don't come from comfort zones.” Roy T. Bennett