Learning from Your Mistakes
By Brian Tracy
There are two
ways to look at the world: the benevolent way or the malevolent way.
People with a malevolent or negative worldview take a victim
stance, seeing life as a continuous succession of problems and a
process of unfairness and oppression.
They don’t expect a lot and they don’t get much.
When things go wrong, they shrug their shoulders and passively
accept that this is the way life is and there isn’t anything they
can do to make it better.
On the other
hand, people with a benevolent or positive worldview see the world
around them as filled with opportunities and possibilities.
They believe that everything happens as part of a great process
designed to make them successful and happy.
They approach their lives, their work, and their relationships
with optimism, cheerfulness, and a general attitude of positive
expectations. They expect
a lot and they are seldom disappointed.
As a result,
people with a benevolent worldview are able to deal constructively and
effectively with mistakes and temporary setbacks.
When you develop the skill of learning from your mistakes, you
are the kind of person who welcomes obstacles and setbacks as
opportunities to flex your mental muscles and move ahead. You look at
problems as rungs on the ladder of success that you grab onto as you
pull your way higher.
Two of the
most common ways to handle mistakes are invariably fatal to high
achievement. The first common but misguided way to handle a mistake is
the failure to accept it when it
occurs. According to statistics, 70 percent of all decisions
we make will be wrong. That’s an average. This means that some
people will fail more than 70 percent of the time, and some people
will fail less. It is hard to believe that most of the decisions we
make could turn out to be wrong in some way. In fact, if this is the
case, how can our society continue to function at all?
The fact is
that our society, our families, our companies, and our relationships
continue to survive and thrive because intelligent people tend to cut
their losses and minimize their mistakes. It is only when people
refuse to accept that they have made a bad choice or decision—and
prolong the consequences by sticking to that bad choice or
decision—that mistakes become extremely expensive and hurtful.
In life, the
quality of “intellectual honesty” is one of the most respected
qualities possessed by individuals, especially leaders. When you are
intellectually honest, you look at your world and deal with your
circumstances as facts and realities, rather than hoping, wishing, and
praying that they could be different. And the minute you begin to deal
straightforwardly with life, you become a far more positive, creative,
and constructive person. You become far more effective in overcoming
your obstacles and achieving your goals. You became far more admired
and respected by other people, and far more capable of achieving the
critical results that are expected of you.
On the other
hand, the unwillingness to face the fact that you are not perfect,
that you have made and will continue to make mistakes, is a major
source of stress. One of
the great teachings of history is the principle of non-resistance.
Non-resistance means that when the wind blows, you bend like a
willow tree rather than snap like a pine tree.
You remain flexible, fluid, and open to new ideas, new
information, and new inputs. You
accept that, in a period of rapid change, nothing is written in stone.
common approach that people take with regard to their mistakes, one
that hurts innumerable lives and careers, is the failure
to use your mistakes to better yourself and to improve the
quality of your mind and your thinking.
your mistakes is an essential skill that enables you to develop the
resilience to be a master of change rather than a victim of change.
The person who recognizes that they have made a mistake and
changes direction the fastest is the one who will win in an age of
increasing information, technology and competition.
By remaining fast on your feet, you will be able to out-play
and out-position your competition.
You will become a creator of circumstances rather than a
creature of circumstances.
every mistake you make as a special learning experience, sent to teach
you something valuable and necessary for your success in the future.
Become an “inverse paranoid,” a person who is convinced
that there is a vast conspiracy in the world to make you successful.
Play with the idea that there are a series of guardian angels
out there who are acting on your behalf.
These angels are regularly planning “learning experiences”
to enable you to grow as a person so that you can reach and achieve
the great heights that are meant for you.
something happens of an adverse nature, immediately counteract your
natural tendency toward disappointment and frustration by saying,
“That’s good!” Then,
get busy looking into the situation to find out what is genuinely good
all day long, you have problems in your work.
In fact, if the problems did not exist, your job would not
exist either. A powerful
way to change your thinking is to realize that solving problems is
what you are paid to do. Your
job is to be a problem-solver, no matter what your title might be.
All day long, you deal with problems and mistakes caused by you
and others. The more of
them you can spot and redirect before the consequences are felt, the
more valuable you will become and the more you will be paid.
In both your
personal and professional life, there are seven steps you can take to
deal with almost any mistake you make.
The first step is to approach the mistake with a positive,
constructive frame of mind, using the techniques outlined above.
step is to define the mistake clearly. Exactly what happened? Write it
down. Think on paper. The more clearly you can write about it, the
more clearly you will understand the mistake and its possible
step is to examine all the known causes of the mistake. How did it
happen? Why did it happen? What were the critical variables that
triggered the mistake? Any attempt to pass over a mistake without
identifying how it occurred in the first place will leave the roots of
that mistake in the ground, to grow up again in the future.
step is to identify all the possible ways of mitigating the mistake.
What are all the different things that you could do to minimize the
cost of the mistake, or to solve the problem that has arisen? The more
ideas you have, the more likely it is that you will come up with the
approach that will prove most effective.
step is for you to make a clear, unequivocal decision about how to
handle the mistake. Decisiveness is a characteristic of high
performing men and women. Almost any decision is better than no
decision at all. Even the most effective leaders make mistakes, but
then they quickly make decisions to offset those.
step is to assign specific responsibility for taking the steps
necessary to mitigate the mistake within a certain time frame. Who exactly
is going to do what, and when, and how, and to whom will they
report? The failure to assign or accept responsibility to achieve
results before a specific deadline will leave the situation
open-ended, and it will often get worse as a result.
seventh step in dealing with mistakes is to take action. Intense
action orientation is a characteristic of the top two percent of the
guarantee in life is that most of the decisions you make and
conclusions you come to will eventually prove wrong. How you deal with
these situations is the chief determinant of your success or failure.
problems are good. Without them there would be no opportunities for
greatness. When you take every challenge that life throws at you,
accepting it as an inevitable part of the growing experience, you can
turn it to your advantage in every way possible. Almost every mistake
you make contains a hidden treasure that you can apply to your life to
forge a future that is extraordinary and worthwhile.
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