Mistakes happen; it’s human nature. And with February 11th officially declared as ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’ day (coincidently falling on what’s celebrated as ‘Inventors’ day in the US), it got us thinking about the challenges that we’ve faced over the years, and how the very same mistakes that once had us trembling in our boots have in fact been instrumental in getting us to where we are today.
As we progress through school and develop into adulthood, we’re often pre-conditioned to ‘fear’ failure – almost to the point of avoiding it at all costs. And while the notions are true, that hard-work, preparation, dedication and the right attitude can take you a long way, some would say that real success, starts with failure.
Henry Ford once said “the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing”, with Alexander Pope perhaps more profoundly stating that “to err, is human”. And while we can endlessly churn out quotes from well-known public figures, we must remember that these are not in fact hollow statements, but instead moments of self-reflection and prophecy that come only with experience and the gift of hindsight. After all, many of the successful figures we look up to today have experienced failure themselves…
Successful people who failed at first:
Thomas Edison’s teacher allegedly told him he was ‘too stupid to learn anything’. This, of course, came before he became an extremely successful inventor who changed the world.
Walt Disney was fired from his local newspaper for ‘lacking imagination’ and having no ‘good’ ideas.
Before building the world’s largest software company, Bill Gates headed up a company called ‘Traf-O-Data’, offering a product which could read traffic tapes and process the data. The company didn’t take off, but somewhat prepped them for Microsoft’s first product some years later.
So the next time you land yourself in a ‘facepalm’ moment of epic frustration, embarrassment and disappointment, just remember that your mistakes don’t need to cripple you, but can instead be stepping-stones within your journey. Check out our top tips for staying calm, bouncing back, and turning what could seemingly be a ‘mistake’, into the beginning of your success:
This one’s a given; if you fail to prepare then you may as well start waving your white flag. Lay out your strategy, focus on your goals and address any issues that could crop up. Don’t be afraid of making some ‘what if’ predictions here – a back-up plan will give you support when you need it the most.
Tool to use: Mind Mapping software, iMindMap
2. Own up
When it hits the fan, one of the most important things you’ll want to do is apologize, acknowledge the mistake, and take responsibility. To make accountability a whole lot easier to manage, some organizations (most notably Apple), follow a ‘DRI’ (Directly Responsible Individual) model. With DRIs on each and every bit of activity that takes place within the business, uncertainties regarding ownership and accountability are eliminated and each employee knows exactly who to turn to for each task.
Tool to use: Visual task management app, DropTask.
3. Act quickly
To prevent an issue from escalating, quick decisions are imperative. This is made easier if your back-up plan is at hand, but as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing”. In moments like this you might find yourself ‘living in the moment’ rather than making decisions based on the bigger picture, but to really master the art of ‘thinking fast’ there are a number of strategies and techniques worth reading about.
Book to read: ‘Grasp the Solution’ by Chris Griffiths
4. Talk to someone
Communication is practically our mantra here at DropTask, in fact, you’ve probably picked up on it as being our top tip in almost everything we share – and there’s good reason for that. When things go pear-shaped your instinctive reaction may be to contemplate the feasibility of brushing it under the carpet. But unless you’re the masked magician, you’ll probably struggle to vanish it without any trace – and the attempt alone could dig you into a deeper hole. Instead, think about who your actions have impacted – maybe your colleagues, or potentially your customers? Then it’s time to pluck up the courage and communicate. You don’t need to sweat the small stuff or grab the closest mega phone, but the earlier you start talking, the better the outcome will be.
What to do: Write an email, schedule a meeting, or send a direct message via DropTask.
5. Learn the lessons and be kind to yourself
By this stage you’ll want to ask a lot of ‘whys’ to get to the root cause of what happened. As tempting as it might be to give this one a skip so you can focus on moving forwards, take some time to reflect – it may just give you the wisdom that will facilitate your success in the future. Was time management an issue? Could you have had better discipline? Did you prioritise well? Learn from the experience because you’ll thank yourself for it later. It’s also important to practice self-compassion, since this will ultimately transform a ‘mistake’ from something you fear, into something you embrace.
Got your own story to share? Share your mistakes and tell us what you’ve learned in the comments below!