By Barry Maher
I‘m like a lawyer,” a new CEO once told me. “I don’t manage, I practice management. And the more I practice, the better I get. Fifteen years ago I was a rotten manager. I had no experience, no training, no decent role models. How could I be anything but rotten? Ten years ago I was an average manager. Five years ago I was good, and now I’ve reached very good. Five years from now I fully expect to be great.”
“So you don’t believe that everything you needed to know you learned in kindergarten?” I asked.
“I once had a division manager working for me who actually said that. All I could think was: I certainly hope you learned everything you needed to know in kindergarten, because it’s obvious you haven’t picked up squat since then.”
Familiarity breeds success. At least it should. A master craftsman is someone who has already made every possible mistake.
In The Survivor Personality, Al Seibert, Ph.D. writes, “The people who are most resilient [when things go wrong] have a learning reaction, not a victim reaction, to bad events. It’s distressing, they don’t like it, but the question is, Do they have a learning/coping reaction or a victim/blaming reaction?”
Motivation for Better Mistakes
My mother is a devote Catholic. She used to tell me whenever something went badly wrong that I should “offer it up to Heaven.” The idea was that “offering up” frustration here on earth would get you credit toward salvation. By that reasoning, I figured that with everything I screwed up, by the time I was eight I already had enough credit for Heaven. From that point on, any additional failure would be a waste unless I could find some way to benefit from it.
Failure is too good to waste. Benefit from it. Make new and better mistakes.
Few of us are good at anything the first time we try it. So why are we so hard on ourselves when we fail? Maybe you did blow it, and maybe you’ll blow it the second time. You can still make each attempt as successful as possible, moving the process of success along, even if it’s nothing more than building rapport and gaining trust with those around you, positioning yourself for your next chance.
It can also be a great motivator. A client of mine is an Internet entrepreneur who’s been through some tough times. “The more I fail,” he insists, “the more I want to succeed. And the harder—and hopefully smarter—I try. To make certain that I do.”
I’ve been a rollerblader for the last four or five years. I like to learn new moves, but since I’m not 14 any more, my main concern is not to fall down. I’d rather not master a move and keep my limbs intact. Teenagers, children, infants who have been skating much less time than I have, can do leaps and spins and pirouettes that I can’t imagine even trying. Because they don’t care about falling. They fall all the time.
You can’t master the move if you aren’t willing to fall. The corollary to that is, if you’re willing to take any fall you can master anything.
You’ve just got to avoid letting the fall kill you.