Start from the end

start end

What if I shared a simple trick to improve your planning? What if I gave you a technique that helped you map out a journey? How much is that worth to you?

The trick is to have the end in mind and work back to where you are from it. Do you know where you want to go? Can you see what the world looks like when you get there? Then this is for you.


Yuan is studying data science on Coursera. Each course has lecture videos, quizzes and projects. He is required to turn in projects by the deadline for credit. He has a full-time job that demands 60-hour weeks at a minimum.

He is frequently behind coursework. He turns in his assignments at the last minute. He is never sure about making the passing grade and feels lucky when he does.


Piya is taking the course along with Yuan. They have similarly demanding jobs and struggle to find time. Yet, Piya’s submissions happen well in advance and she never has doubts about making the grade. Not only that, Piya is active on discussion forums, making intelligent contributions that are appreciated by her peers.

What gives?

Piya has adopted the “fail first” method of working back from the end. She jumps straight to the assignments and fails first. Then, as she completes lecture videos one by one, she comes back to assignments and improves the score in iterations. Along the way, she engages in discussion forums to share tidbits and learn.

Yuan, on the other hands, jumps into the videos. Only when he has done a bunch of them does he get on with assignments. By that time, the deadline is approaching. Small changes to his schedule disrupt his path. That ends up with him frequently pulling off heroic all-nighters to get the submission in on time.

Fail First

Chances are, you recognize Yuan in your world. He is probably proud of his last-minute heroics that get the job done. That has become his signature style. He even expects a reward for it and is disturbed when that reward does not come.

Yuan’s days are numbered.

Because the Piya’s of the world are constantly out-gunning, out-smarting and  out-earning them. The Yuan’s plod on without a clue, hoping their turn shall come next.

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