Carry the Good Forward and Let the Rest Go (Day 21 of 30 Days of Getting Results)



“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” — Lao Tzu

Your Outcome: Make the most of your setbacks, failures, and lessons.  Take the lessons you learn each week, carry the good forward, and use them to refine your approach.  Let the rest go.

Welcome to day 21 of 30 Days of Getting Results, based on my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.  In day 20, we learned how to ask better questions to get better results.  By asking better questions, we get clarity on what counts for ourselves and others, and we figure out what’s really valued.  Today, we learn how to find the lessons, fail fast, and fail forward.  The keys to rapid learning are turning failures into feedback, carrying the good forward, and staying curious. The worst pitfall to fall into is a state of  “learned helplessness”, where you shutdown or start thinking that no matter what you try, it just won’t work.

Don’t dwell on what you did wrong, figure out what you can do right.

Just because you don’t get the results you expected, don’t lose your way.  One of my favorite reminders in Peaceful Warrior is that a warrior does what they love, despite the setbacks and the challenges.  They find a way.

Why Carry the Good Forward
When you carry the good forward, and let the rest go, your lessons become a spring board that support you in all areas of your life.  Rather than get bogged down, or beat yourself up from all the things that don’t go as planned, you find smarter strategies and tactics for improving your success.  This builds momentum and a personal toolbox you can draw from whenever you need it.

Find the lessons
No matter what goes wrong you can always find the lessons.  Mistakes happen.  We’re human.  Things don’t always go as planned.  It’s easy to look back and second guess yourself after the fact, with perfect “20-20 hindsight.”   That’s what makes judging and critiquing so easy, since you have a new vantage point and more information.  Rather than use the vantage point as a critic, turn your inner-critic into your personal coach and use your feedback as a way to pave a path forward.

You can use questions to find the lessons:

  1. What did I learn?
  2. How can I make the most of this?
  3. How can I use this?

Test your results and find the questions that work for you.  If you’re in a situation that doesn’t seem like it will change, then change yourself first by asking the question, “If this situation never were to change, what’s the one quality I need to make the most of this?”

Fail Forward
Turn failures into lessons. Don’t just ask, “Why did I fail?” It’s important to also ask, “What did I learn?” Carry the good forward.

As you get into the habit of failing forward, you’ll find it easier and easier to turn failure into feedback, while learning the key lessons and insight that help you spread your wings or bounce back faster each time.

Fail Fast
This is a practice I learned early on at Microsoft.  The idea is to test your results as soon as possible to find out what works and what won’t.  Rather than spend a long time planning, figure out a mini-plan, start taking action, get feedback and adjust your plan.  This way, your plan is informed by real-world feedback, you stay out of analysis paralysis, and you learn faster with real success, failures, feedback, and data under your belt.

The key to failing fast is to shorten your learning loops so that you can adjust your approach. Stay flexible in your approach. Use feedback as your guide to improve your results. When something is not working, find the way forward by paying more attention to what you’re learning from the experience.

Catch the Next Train
Don’t be late for today.  Be early for tomorrow.    All the time you spend dwelling on what you missed or opportunity lost, takes away from you getting ready to catch the next train.  While your rear-view mirror is helpful for learning lessons, find a way forward and lead yourself with skill by staying forward looking in your approach.   Whenever you find yourself dwelling, ask yourself, “What’s next?”

Get Up to Bat
This is one of my favorite metaphors.   You get a new chance at bat each day, each week, each month, each year.  As long as you keep getting up to bat, you have another chance.   If you’re going through change, then remember that change is a process and that it might take multiple times or multiple chances to get it right.

Allow for the fact that change is hard. You might fail multiple times; just keep getting back on your horse, learn from each setback, and carry the good forward. Don’t break yourself against your own goals by biting off too much or beating yourself over the head with them; instead, use them to lift you and guide your choices.

Cut the Chains that Bind you
If you saw Disney’s movie “Up,” then you know what it’s like to cut the ties that bind you.   Cut the deadwood or whatever is holding you back.  In “Peaceful Warrior”, the reminder was to “put your bags down.”  In the movie, “Up in the Air,” the main actor, played by George Clooney, asks the question, “What’s in your backpack?”   This forces you to take a look at all the possessions, relationships, commitments, and responsibilities that you carry around in your metaphorical backpack, and whether they’re helping or hurting you, or just how much they are weighting you down.

The way that I turn all of these insights into action and keep it simple is with a one-liner reminder — “Carry the good forward, and let the rest go.”

Today’s Assignment

  1. Add the question, “How can I use this?” to your mental toolbox for dealing with your setbacks, mistakes, and failures.
  2. Add the question, “If this situation never were to change, what’s the one quality I need to make the most of this?” to your mental toolbox for dealing with the worst in your life.
  3. Reframe your “failures” as “feedback.”  Treat your feedback as an endless supply of learnings and lessons you can choose to act on, ignore, or make the most of.
  4. Each Friday, find the three lessons you can carry forward from the week, into your next week, to create your momentum and a springboard for your success.

My Related Posts

Photo by pranav.


  1. Argghhh ….. good one!
    Talking about failures…. how about 40 failures for the last 3 months? With your help I turned them into lessons and treated as the path to the success. I never stuck on the emotional part of the failure although it was not easy but with little help from friends and family I amde it through to the success. Now I am openning new chapter and I expect few more failures ahead – I’ll try to let them come fast so I could quickly learn on my way to success 😉

  2. This is GREAT!! And so much applies to an example this past week in the recording studio. Much of the music was great, so we can take that forward. Yet, the elements that did not turn out as well are excellent learning scenarios to do it better next time! I feel good that momentum from these learning experiences will continue to bring great results. Whoo-hoo.

    Like Alik says — a new chapter!


  3. JD,

    Love your title. Am working on letting go of the “not good”, and “carry the good forward” has a lovely ring and I will try harder to do this!

  4. another great post… it is what you say it is mere feedback once we get over the hurting emotional part.

    tomorrow is another day to look forward to, the beauty of it is we can start over again armed with better “tools”…:)

  5. @ Alik — Thank you. You’ve done very well and you’ve set the stages for your new adventures. I’ve seen you bounce back from each setback with new insight and experience under your belt. You’re in a new vantage point.

    @ Jannie — Thank you. It really is where the momentum comes from. It sounds like you’re building a solid foundation to stand on.

    @ Sandra — I’ve seen people make rapid and amazing improvements by simply improving their learning loops. It applies to business too.

    @ Daphne — Thank you. Questions make it easier … for example, “What do you want to carry forward?”

    @ Riza — Thank you. It’s all about getting better a day at a time … it adds up and is basically compound interest.

  6. Hey J.D.,

    Lots of goodies in this post. Each one could be its own post. Let me pick my ultimate favs.

    Get up to bat. This one scares many folks to the point they stay seated in the bleachers! Come on down to the field, Les Brown used to say. I’m a power participant in life. Love to try everything! (and I rode horses, which forced me to really get back on the horse. I remember one day my horse kept refusing a jump and I kept falling off and getting right back on until we made it over. – must have fallen off 6 times.)

    What’s in your backpack? That’s a good one. What elephant do we carry into the room with us never mind find in there?

    Thanks! Giulietta

  7. Creating a positive mindset is so very important to being productive. Too often we don’t think about how we need to focus on the successes that we create. Once we have a pattern that works we can use this foundation as a springboard to bring in more success.

    Hit the nail on the head with this one. Thanks J.D.

  8. Hi JD .. good to remember we don’t need to tie everything off (ie perfection –creep) – but can test it as we go .. that’s what I’ll be doing, but hadn’t thought of my trial runs as that … I’ll be moving forward gaining confidence etc ..

    The back pack’s started to be turned out .. so I’ll keep on that ..

    Thanks really helpful – especially being early for tomorrow’s train .. just be ready not trying to catch your tail all the time … Hilary

  9. […] Day 21 – Carry the Good Forward, Let the Rest Go […]

  10. I have changed up my routine activities this week. It was partly because of needing extra rest from intense work but mostly because of high priority tasks that took over my schedule.

    It was refreshing because my start-up routines(polished, improved, and becoming very effective!) was getting stale… Not-following the routines meant more time and energy for work… Then my work took over my personal space and time completely, which was my bad habit from the past. At least I recognized it in few days instead of few years this time… The lesson learned is the impact of “trade-off” by choice or by default. It’s effective if it’s a chosen path. Otherwise it can be limiting…

    “Seeking unfamiliar territory” is what I like to do as well. I used to be a moving addict: I tried house share, condo share, basement rental, apartment near office or closer to city centers, housemate with dogs, a retired housemates, an engaged couple, etc. I learned so much from the housemates about their values, their relationship with work/family/friends, and their lifestyle. It’s almost a requirement to ‘carry the good forward and let the rest go’ when it comes to apartment/condo/house hunting. I finally settled (haven’t moved last three years!) and had to learn to let go of ‘exploring unfamiliar territories’ regularly. I am still adjusting to this change…

    With that said, I am making a career change that requires me to let go of current comfort zones while creating new preferable routines. Carrying the good forward is an eternal challenge…

    • > I recognized it in few days instead of few years this time
      Beautiful — your reflection and awareness are working wonders already.

      I like the “fresh start” aspect of changing jobs and changing careers.

      The toughest thing I had to learn though is how to truly make it a fresh start. It’s easy to bring our baggage with us. The best thing I did was watch “Peaceful Warrior.”

      It truly taught me to “put the bags down.”

      I knew the idea of letting things go, but somehow after watching the movie, I had a much better reference for what it means to really put your bags down, let things go, and really take a fresh look around at what’s going on right here, right now.

      It was a strange experience. I decided to go to work as if I was a newhire. I put faith in my experience, that my true wisdom would serve me if I need it, but I wanted to really act as if I was new on the job. I went to work with open eyes, and a curious mind.

      I was surprised to realize how many things had radically changed under my feet that I just hadn’t noticed. The people, the rules, the values, etc. had changed quite a bit. And because I hadn’t noticed, several things were working against me, because I hadn’t adapted or embraced the changes. I had been operating under the old regime.

      With my new found insight, I quickly adapted to the new landscape, embraced the changes, and quickly figured out better ways for better days.

      But all this was only possible by first letting go.

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