The Myth of the Magic Bullet: 7 Things to Do When Progress is Slow

Progress is like learning to walk. You stumble forward, then you skin your knee.

There’s no quick fix to the challenges of leadership. And thinking there is makes stumbling harder.

The path forward is iterative. Proposed solutions don’t magically work on the first try, or the tenth.

A desire for easy solutions invites disappointment.


Edison said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

You believed your approach was useful. But your good idea was irrelevant. Failing to make progress – when you hoped things would change – feels worse than stagnation.

Learning what doesn’t work is unglamorous, but necessary.

When you stop doing what isn’t working you have energy to try something new.


You never intentionally choose stupid, but ignorance makes stupid seem smart. You did the thing you thought best. It didn’t work.

Henry Ford nailed it when he said, “Failure provides the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.”

More intelligently:

Failure makes you more intelligent only if you…

#1. Face forward when progress is slow. Remember your aspiration to serve others.

#2. Adapt. Stop investing in strategies that aren’t working. Your bright idea didn’t work. Try another.

You’re better able to move forward when you stop hoping in something that isn’t working.

#3. Take another step. Don’t throw in the towel.

Adaptive grit eventually looks like wisdom.

#4. Go with your highest point of clarity. Forget perfect solutions.

You have enough clarity to take the next step.

#5. Forgive yourself. The best way to begin again is to stop beating yourself down.

#6. Find a friend, mentor, or coach.

It’s foolish to face tough challenges alone.

#7. Stay curious.

Bonus: Bring in an outsider to expand your approach and encourage your team.

Progress is often unspectacular.

How do you keep going when progress is slow?