NEVER Waste a Good Mistake

fourth-of-july-fly-overHave you ever made a mistake? A really BIG one? Maybe you did something careless, without proper planning or attention to the depth and breadth of detail? Something that might have cost you dearly in some way like a job, time, money, health, or a relationship? Unless you were just born, you surely have.


We’ll be taking a break for the long, July 4th Holiday weekend ahead… our next session will be Thursday, July 6th: Closing The Deal I: An exploration of interview strategies, including MoneySpeak and PRE-Offer negotiation!


Pilot OnboardSo, the more important question is “are you better off as a result of your mistake?” As painful as mistakes can be, there is no teacher better than adversity. People do their best learning through tough times, mistakes, and failures. Prosperity is great, but not a good teacher. Those who live a privileged, sheltered, and adversity-free life miss life’s education.

In contrast, those who deal with tough bosses, demanding clients, relationship conflicts, and their own bad decisions, learn many valuable lessons.  However, adversity is only beneficial if it is properly processed.

When people make a mistake, they have three fundamental choices on how to process it. Two of the choices lead to no benefit and the other to significant benefit.  Choice #1 is to be frustrated by or dismissive of the mistake.

Choice #2 is to blame others or circumstances.

Choice #3 is to reflect on and find the learning in it.

Intellectually, people see choice #3 as the correct choice, yet regularly practice choices #1 and #2 because ‘the lesson’ is difficult to identify, and it is easier to let your emotions take over, or to shift the blame. Rather than embrace the opportunity for change, they stay in their comfort zone. They may be quick to correct others, but unable to see the need for change in themselves.

Remember, you have earned the opportunity to learn from and be better for it! Don’t waste a good mistake.

Generally speaking, we all share the same experiences in life. The key difference is that successful people grow through their experiences, particularly their adversity. They accept responsibility when things don’t go well, reflect on what happened, and make adjustments in how they think and act.

In contrast, unsuccessful people tend to dismiss their role in their misfortunes, blame others, blame circumstances, or simply ignore what happened.  Sound all too familiar?

Whether in your professional or personal life, your future success largely depends on how well you learn from your experience, especially your mistakes. Here are five easy guidelines to follow to get the most benefit from your mistakes:

  1. Acknowledge the mistake. Don’t let the good qualities of being calm, resilient, and forgiving prevent you from seeing that a mistake was made. Confront reality.
  2. Take responsibility. Don’t be quick to fault external influences. There are always contributing circumstances.
  3. Reflect on the mistake to determine root cause. Identify the specific real issue. Most mistakes are symptoms. Ask “why did this happen?” Consider the possibilities and narrow them down to the likely culprits. Then ask “why did this happen?” again. And again, as needed, until you’ve exhausted the likely root causes that deserve your attention.
  4. Interact…involve others. Seek input from others who can help you objectively think through your assessment. Share your reflections with someone you trust who can help you understand the nuances of your situation.
  5. Look forward. Forgive yourself and others. Realize that you are not perfect and its okay. Recover and move on. Embed your lessons learned into your plans, processes, and daily habits. Don’t ruminate any longer. Be glad that you now have knowledge that will help you as well as others as you go forward.

Don’t waste a good mistake. Don’t miss the opportunity from your hardships to gain the greater benefit and become extraordinary.

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