How attitude and pacing impact success or failure


When I look back over my accomplishments and failures in life, two things seem to have made the most impact on determining success or failure: attitude and pace. Both of these factors are entirely manageable. Don’t get me wrong—external factors can impact how things turn out, but in many cases, external forces can be overcome with a positive attitude and a proper pace.

I’m writing this article the day after the 2024 Boston Marathon. I ran my first Boston Marathon back in 1998 and often consider the connections between running and life. A runner toeing the starting line of a race has to believe (attitude) they can reach their goal and they have to set a proper tempo to make it to the finish line without going too fast or too slow (pace). Let’s consider what this means in your business and personal life.

My first Boston Marathon in 1998. Yes, I celebrated my completion of the race with a cigar! Photo/Joe Domaleski
My first Boston Marathon on Patriot’s Day – April 20, 1998. Yes, I celebrated my completion of the race with a cigar! Photo/Joe Domaleski

You’ve probably heard it before, but attitude is everything. A good leader needs to believe success is possible and convey that hope and optimism to his/her team. I’ve written previously about being a leader of hope. Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean one should ignore risks, resource constraints, and reality. It does mean that oftentimes human beings have the ability to transcend limitations with the proper mindset. Like most entrepreneurs, I started my business with the expectation of success, despite the inherent risks.

Setting a proper pace ensures that forward progress is maintained without going too fast and burning out. Equally as important is to ensure that the pace is swift enough that things don’t drag out causing a loss of motivation. An effective leader, like an orchestra conductor, knows how to set the proper tempo to ensure that everyone maintains the right speed. Because people tend to naturally move at different paces, it’s not always easy to keep everyone together. Some people are like great sprinters who have raw speed, but they have a hard time maintaining consistency over a long haul. Others, myself included, tend to be distance runners who don’t move as fast as the sprinters but we can stay the course for a long time. Finding the balance between speed and endurance can be tricky at best.

You’ve probably seen the funny “Six Phases of a Project” list that’s been around since the late 70s. Although its origins are lost to time, I thought it might be fun to consider each of the phases in both a funny and practical way. Whether it’s a specific project, campaign, or task you’re trying to accomplish, I think this list is relevant.

  1. Enthusiasm – as mentioned above, most endeavors start with enthusiasm and belief that success is possible, even if there’s not a clear path on how to do it. Although “pain avoidance” is sometimes a motivating factor to get something done (i.e. “choosing the lesser of two evils”), it’s generally better to aim for a more positive outcome fueled with enthusiasm.
  2. Disillusionment – most worthwhile projects encounter one or more periods of disillusionment fueled by FUD – fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Sometimes FUD can lead to a failure to even get started. Rarely do things go according to plan and that’s when one’s resolve is tested. Change fatigue, missed details, and uncomfortable situations can contribute to disillusionment. The way to combat disillusionment is to “rally the troops” and recommit to the objective. Disillusionment is fixable.
  3. Panic – sometimes disillusionment can lead to panic. Whereas disillusionment is usually temporary discomfort, panic is the genuine fear of failure. The key word is “fear” – whether it’s based on reality or just perception. At the panic stage, people tend to become less rational and make emotionally charged decisions. If it’s truly a panic situation, the leader needs to intervene and make changes. Changes may include slowing down the pace, changing the staff assignments, recalibrating the objectives, or adjusting the amount of resources. Equally important to the changes is the leader’s commitment and enthusiasm that success can be achieved. If the leader doesn’t believe in success, no one on the team will believe it. In rare cases, it may be time to “abandon ship” if everyone involved agrees the situation isn’t tenable. Very rarely have I seen this type of situation and, quite the contrary, I most often see people giving up when they’re on the cusp of victory.
  4. Search for the guilty – when things begin to drift and stray from the plan, people tend to ascribe blame. A true leader accepts responsibility for a negative situation. A weak leader blames other people or circumstances. Unfortunately, this is all too common in today’s society. Everyone wants to have a scapegoat. If you are enthusiastic about the end goal and you’re running a proper pace towards a realistic objective, my advice is to stay the course and avoid the blame game. Make needed changes to overcome obstacles, but avoid the “blame game”.
  5. Punishment of the innocent – this doesn’t always happen, but when it does it’s a real head scratcher. Unfortunately, there’s a natural human tendency to criticize and even blame the person (or team) who’s actually in the “battle” trying to do the right thing. This can happen when someone in an organization has enough clout or status that they can transfer blame from themselves to others in a “trickle down” effect. When this happens, it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm and pacing for a project – or any future endeavors with the same so-called leader.
  6. Praise for those not involved – this is probably my biggest pet peeve – attention and glory “hogs”. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. I really enjoy hearing about people and teams that overcome adversity to achieve great things. They should receive the praise and attention. Unfortunately, oftentimes we just hear or see about the figureheads who show up when it’s picture time. You know what I’m talking bout, it happens all of the time. Someone will get the overall credit and praise, even if their only contribution to the effort was their “status” in the community. A true leader puts their team on the winner’s platform, not himself or herself. It’s hard to be enthusiastic or stay in the game when the accolades are awarded to non-participants.
Enthusiastic branding project kick-off for the Women at the WELL ministry. (LR) Zavion Green, Debbie Gronner, Janine Baggett (via Zoom), Mia Scarbrough, and Marta Fewell. April 11, 2024 at Trilith. Photo/Joe Domaleski
Enthusiastic branding project kick-off for the Women at the WELL ministry. (L-R) Zavion Green, Debbie Gronner, Janine Baggett (via Zoom on the laptop), Mia Scarbrough, and Marta Fewell. April 11, 2024 at Trilith. Photo/Joe Domaleski

In order to cross the finish line in a marathon or complete a project at work, it’s been my experience that a combination of enthusiasm and pacing can mean the difference between success or failure. Be the type of leader who sets worthwhile goals and enthusiastically leads the way. Ensure you and your team are keeping a realistic pace by not running too fast or too slowly. When things don’t go as planned, avoid placing blame on anyone but yourself. Make needed changes, but stay in the race if it’s winnable. Seek out opportunities to praise your team and spotlight their accomplishments, not your own. If you do these things, your team is more likely to help you tackle bigger and better things in the future. How’s your enthusiasm and pace holding up out there?

[Joe Domaleski, a Fayette County resident for 25 years, is the owner of Country Fried Creative – an award-winning digital marketing agency located in Peachtree City. His company was the Fayette Chamber’s 2021 Small Business of the Year.  Joe is a husband, father of three grown children, and proud Army veteran.  He has an MBA from Georgia State University and enjoys sharing his perspectives drawing from thirty years of business leadership experience. Sign up for the Country Fried Creative newsletter to get marketing and business articles directly in your inbox. ]