To Err is Human

No one likes to dwell on the topic of failure. Accepting the situation for what it is and moving on is sound advice. However, we are also encouraged to learn from our mistakes and therein lies the problem. If we need to deal with a situation, learn from it and focus on the future, at what point does the dealing and learning turn into dwelling?

First things first, mistakes and failures can and do occur. A significant step towards successfully dealing with failure takes place before you even start. If you’re making the transition from a large business or organisation to working for yourself, you are taking a risk. You are taking many. Risk taking is the very spirit of entrepreneurship and if you can accept that and the fact that not 100% of these risks will succeed, the occasional hiccup will seem far easier to deal with.

When things don’t go your way, it is important not to obsess over things you have no control over. Unless you’re given some direct feedback, you can’t be sure what’s going on in other people’s heads and what their decision making process is. You could devote hours trying to unpick a situation which led to a prospective client walking away, wondering how you could have pitched things differently but for all you know they were merely fishing and never genuinely interested in the first place.

Perhaps you have some form of concrete evidence to work with, such as a correlation between you revealing your pricing structure and people walking away. This is useful as it provides you with an area to consider or discuss with your mentor. Prospects who vanish without trace or leave no explanation as to their change of heart do not deserve the room in your head. We like to think we can put ourselves in a client’s place, but without evidence or a clue to infer from we can only project what they may be thinking and that is not helpful.

If something has not gone to plan and you recognise that you have made a genuine mistake, the first step towards dealing with it and moving on is to acknowledge the error and apologise. Your reputation is incredibly important and though an error on your part may tarnish it somewhat, the honesty to admit a mistake and the humility to apologise for it will serve you far better in the future than developing a reputation of being blind to your own mistakes, too proud to admit them or insecure enough to insist palming off the responsibility to anyone or anything else instead of yourself.

In terms of moving on, acknowledging and apologising for your mistake will have given you a clear idea of what it was you did wrong and therefore clear targets for how to operate differently in the future. You can accept the situation for what it is, refrain from overthinking and replaying past events and focus on the future using your experience to improve your performance.

Of course, not all failure will be your fault at all or the failure may not be complete, just not the ideal solution you were looking for. In these cases it is even more important not to dwell on the past. High aspirations are commendable, but perfectionism can drive people mad. As Solomon Ben Judah put it: ‘At the head of all understanding is realizing what is and what cannot be, and the consoling of what is not in our power to change’. The situation is what it is. We can’t change it now. Let’s learn what we can and use it in the future. If a similar situation occurs we could try doing things differently. Now let’s move on.

Posted in: Personal Development

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