T.O.T.E. Your Way to Greater Success!

T.O.T.E. Test Operate Test Exit for success

Did you know that Thomas Edison’s most famous creation went through several thousand changes before it worked to his satisfaction?

That’s right.

His goal: To create an incandescent lightbulb that worked perfectly.

His strategy: He demonstrated great perseverance in order to reach his goal. He saw each failed attempt as a lesson learned as he cultivated new insights into how to change the lightbulb in order to manifest the desired outcome.

In fact, Thomas Edison used the T.O.T.E. Model to produce a functional lightbulb.

The T.O.T.E Model is a powerful — yet simple — Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)  principle I have learned over the past year.

What is T.O.T.E? Test, Operate, Test, and Exit. The model explains how strategies operate, and how they can mean the difference between success and failure.

How the T.O.T.E. Model Works

Test: First, you establish a well-formed outcome (a goal), then check (test) to see whether the strategy to attain the outcome works. The first test is a comparison of the current state with the desired state. Ask yourself, “Have I achieved my goal yet?”

Operate: If the goal was not achieved, make comparisons, gather data, make changes and improvements, and perform an action (operate).

Test: Test again and compare or evaluate the outcome in respect to the goal. If the strategy works, great! This second test is a comparison to the first and you ask yourself again, “Have I achieved my goal yet?” If the answer is “yes,” then exit the strategy.

What happens if the strategy does not work? Refine your behaviour and strategy (operate) until your test shows that you’ve achieved the goal.

Exit: The exit point — also known as the decision or choice point — is a representation of the results of the test. If there is a match to the desired outcome, the strategy is successful and exits. If there is a mismatch, the strategy is recycled again.

Ideas for Creating New Strategies

When our clients fail to get the results they want, evaluate the existing strategies that were utilized. You can create new strategies by:

  • Asking critical questions.
  • Reviewing the strategy step-by-step and identifying the gaps.
  • Redirecting the strategy.
  • Refining or changing the outcome.
  • Adjusting the criteria.
  • Securing more reliable and valid data along with 360-degree feedback.
  • Brainstorming and creating a new strategy aligned with goals and values.
  • Adopting a strategy that works effectively in another context and applying it to the problem area.
  • Identifying another strategy that has worked for someone else in the past and then testing it out yourself.

Fear or Perceived Lack of Choice Can Impact Strategy Outcomes

The T.O.T.E. Model seems simple enough.

But, how many times do we find ourselves doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results (remember the definition of insanity)?

How often do we stop and fully reflect on the functionality, quality, appropriateness, and effectiveness of our strategies?

Often, we think we lack choice and so we fail to explore potential gaps in strategy along with a host of other possible options. Other times, we are reluctant to try something new that may propel us outside our comfort zones or take up more time and energy than we think we want to invest. But remember — no risk, no reward!

For instance, there is often more than one way of writing a résumé to effectively capture a candidate’s accomplishments and secure better results. Crafting a stellar résumé for a client undergoing a challenging career transition may take several iterations as additional details are researched and documented and woven into a compelling career narrative. It may require the inclusion of creative design or writing skills. Or, you may devise a strategy that opts for a non-traditional résumé in light of the client’s background, focus, unique value, and the employer’s requirements.

Remember NLP’s “No Failure, Only Feedback” Presupposition

This T.O.T.E Model is useful to all of us and can be applied in every aspect of life, including job search, employment strategy, interviewing, and even business practices, communications, and personal relationships.

We often jump to conclusions or fail to even test, evaluate, or modify our strategies for achieving desired outcomes. I’ve heard some clients say, in reaction to experiencing challenges at work, “I’ve already tried that strategy and it doesn’t work; my goal is unattainable, so why bother?”

The challenge I pose to these clients is, “Try something different –– perhaps very different this time –– and weigh the results. Just allow yourself to experiment a little with strategy.”

I’ve seen many people not give themselves the permission to experiment, make necessary adjustments, and test the effectiveness of these adjustments in their careers. Why? Perhaps fear of failure, lack of awareness or confidence, inaccurate perception of choice, or perceived lack of timing.

But, if we view the situation through the lens of the NLP principle of “there is no failure, only feedback,” we will give ourselves the permission to think outside the box.

When you think about it, most desired goals can be achieved unless they are unrealistic or unmeasurable, misaligned with our subconscious or our values, or they don’t serve our highest positive intentions.

So, think about the desired state you want to create. Be specific with your goal and make adjustments until you achieve the state or outcome you want. Changing the operation/process can progressively lead towards the desired state and outcome. It may take time to find the strategy that works, but that’s OK. Eliciting constructive feedback is helpful in applying a diverse perspective to the problem and refining the strategy.

Applying the T.O.T.E Model will allow you to understand what works, what doesn’t, and even why. Done right, you really can T.O.T.E. your way to greater success!

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison

Lori A. Jazvac is a passionate, award-winning Master Certified Résumé Strategist and Certified Employment Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada. As a multi-certified Master Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Coach, she specializes in helping clients navigate challenging career transitions. In 2013, an empowering vision inspired Lori to launch Creative Horizons Communications, a holistic career services firm where she virtually supports jobseekers around the globe to embrace their next career milestone. In her spare time, Lori enjoys dance, blogging, watching comedies and reality shows, yoga, and taking long walks in nature.

Photo by Jeshoots on Unsplash


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