While we think of failure as a binary True/False this is rarely the case. The success or failure is a culmination of all the parts coming together. By thinking about this beforehand you can think about the level of success in these parts. You can have a overall failure but still succeeded in some parts.

Lets look at a hypothetical project to build a website, for simplicity this will be a Wordpress site for a restaurant. At a high level this site needs to have the restaurants hours, menu and location. But lets peel this back a layer.

  • How much would this site cost to run?
    • Cost will be less $25 a month to be successful.
  • How available does this site need to be?
    • Site needs to be available 99% of the time.
  • How many customers does this site need to bring in to make this successful?
    • 10 new customers per week.
    • We can also consider site views as an metric.

Looking at this we can see that we can easily succeed on the technical aspects but still not drive enough customers to make this worth while to the restaurant. We can also see that more we reduce the cost to operate less customers need to be added to make this project worth while. We can even accept higher levels of site failure it is drastically reduces the costs.

A site like this could be run on a single Virtual machine for $10 and backups going to a cloud storage location. This would mean that the site would not be able to handle large amounts of traffic and restoring this from backup would be a slow and manual process. But this is the right level of failure for this restaurant.


While this is a pretty normal discussion with a website you can extend this idea to cover far more parts of your life. Lets look at the often failed project of loosing wight.

  • How much wight do you want to lose?
    • 20 pounds
  • How long should this take?
    • 1 month
  • How much extra cost can you afford?
    • needs to be cost neutral
  • How much time can this take out of your day?
    • 1 Hour

Again we can see that you can lose wight, But it takes to much time out of your day or costs to much money. You could even not loose wight the main goal but be able to work out every day with no costs. That could still be a overall success by meeting secondary goals.

By breaking down the major goal and defining how what success is in each of these parts you can better understand the steps you need to take to accomplish your goals as well as understanding that parts will fail and planning for these failures.