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  • Writer's pictureshiv kumar

The Mechanism Of Success

Back in the 1980s when I was a student of mechanical engineering (seems like another lifetime!), one of my subjects was control engineering in which I remember learning about servomechanisms which are automatic devices that use error-sensing negative feedback to correct the action of a mechanism. An example of a servomechanism might be a car’s cruise control system which uses closed-loop feedback to maintain a constant speed. There are examples of servomechanisms in biology too such as, in human bodies when blood glucose level rises in a normal person, the pancreas responds by releasing insulin enabling the cells to take in and metabolize glucose.


In his book “Psycho Cybernetics”, author Maxwell Maltz talks about humans having a built-in success mechanism that could be considered similar to a servomechanism. A servomechanism at its most basic level needs an input, an output, and an error signal. In human success mechanisms, we can look at the input as our actions, the output as our goal or objective, and the error signal as our failures.

For our in-built success mechanism to work, we need a clearly defined goal or target which we must believe is already in existence. I like to think of this goal requirement in terms of the SMART goal setting method. As long as our goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, our success mechanism will tend to steer us towards this goal. The reality is that all of us have goals, consciously or subconsciously, and whether or not we’re able to articulate them clearly. But having a goal that isn’t clearly defined does not provide a clear enough output for our internal success mechanism to kick into gear. Hence the importance of goal setting and the significance of knowing the WHY aspect of our goals ahead of the HOW. The answer to the question “why do I want to achieve what I want to achieve” is the driving force behind our success mechanism. Do check out one of my earlier blogs ( if you want to read more about why we need goals.


I’m sure you must’ve heard of expressions like “fail forward” and “learn from your failures”.

There is that famous quote on failure by Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb – “I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

How about learning to see failures as temporary, or even necessary? Without failures, how can our success mechanism get its “negative feedback” or “error signal” to correct course towards our goal?

Do you remember when you first learned how to drive a car? I’m talking about the real deal here – the manual car, not the automatic one designed for lazy drivers! Can you recall how when your foot released the clutch pedal too soon, the engine would stall? Then, through repeated attempts, you learned the exact time for the release of the clutch so that the car would smoothly move forward, didn’t you? That is the kind of attitude we need to take towards our failures in life. If we decide to trust our internal servomechanism to do its job and lead us to success in our chosen endeavour, we must be prepared to accept that failure is one of the essential requirements on the path to success. After all, no circuit can be complete if one of its components is missing, right? I had written more about the fear of failing in an earlier blog post (


Life is full of challenges, many of which we overcome and some of which may overwhelm us and make us feel defeated. If we can learn to look at our failures as scars received in the battles of life, we can develop an attitude of being battle-hardened and take pride in our ‘scars’ as true soldiers do. We only get scars when we get into the battle, without being scared of getting defeated – not by being on the sidelines.

Here is an excerpt from a news article on –

“Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart was a one-eyed, one-handed war hero who fought in three major conflicts across six decades, surviving plane crashes and PoW camps.

Carton de Wiart served in the Boer War, World War One, and World War Two. In the process he was shot in the face, losing his left eye, and was also shot through the skull, hip, leg, ankle, and ear.

In WW1 he was severely wounded on eight occasions and mentioned in despatches six times.

Having previously lost an eye and a hand in battle, Carton de Wiart, as commanding officer, was seen by his men pulling the pins of grenades out with his teeth and hurling them with his one good arm during the Battle of the Somme, winning the Victoria Cross.”

Having read the above excerpt about this exceptional soldier, do you feel a little more motivated to look at failures as a necessary part of the success process, and are you prepared to take on your personal life challenges with more vigour and hope?

I sure hope so – because then your success mechanism will be activated and ready to steer you towards your target.

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