How to Profit from Your Mistakes
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How to Profit from Your Mistakes

Contrary to what most people seem to think, making a mistake need not be a train smash – in fact, with the right attitude, a mistake is actually a gift of opportunity – perhaps the most celebrated is the one made by Christopher Columbus sailing westward in an effort to arrive on the Western seaboard of Asia. In the process he happened to bump into what is now the highly successful United States.

ColumbusContrary to what most people seem to think, making a mistake need not be a train smash – in fact, with the right attitude, a mistake is actually a gift of opportunity – perhaps the most celebrated is the one made by Christopher Columbus sailing westward in an effort to arrive on the Western seaboard of Asia. In the process he happened to bump into what is now the highly successful United States.

So, with a little ingenuity, a mistake, properly handled, becomes a time to learn, then change, grow and improve one's performance for the next time around. The window to an understanding of this simple approach is really not to see the mistake as the end result – but rather as a new beginning!

Recognizing that fact, and then coming to terms with it will obviate your becoming one of the herd, and thus an inveterate, and chronic 'mistake maker' of note.

But is there a simple, practical formula that one can follow to make sure that you can come up trumps next time around? Of course there is, and it is actually all terribly basic:

1. Always be totally transparent up front.

TransparentAdmitting to an error on your part, quickly and openly, will ensure that you will earn the respect of those around you – at work, socially and at home. Moreover, people will remember this, and it will add to your credibility many times over on the occasions when you are right. What will have happened here? It is just that you have demonstrated that you value truth over excuses. That advice alone is PURE GOLD.

2. Damage Control

To deal with ANY mistake calmly, intelligently and effectively, always consider this 3-step process:

  • Is it important?
  • Is it costly?
  • What are the likely implications, now and later?

The answers to these 3 questions will signpost the way to how far you need to move into damage control.

3. Pinpoint the cause/s of the problem

pinpointHere you will need follow a simple process, essentially along these lines:

  • How reliable is the information you have to hand?
  • Did your planning match the standards required for the task
  • Were you in possession of ALL the facts?
  • Was you timing of the task or project up to the mark
  • Were there any other parties who may have muddied the waters

4. Action Stations

Any corrective steps must address the problems as they have been identified. For example, if costs have been underestimated, make sure that budget estimates are more closely monitored next time around. Where the matter is more complex, consider taking the following steps:

  • Salvage what you can
  • Explore a new approach
  • Examine potential flaws in your new plan in the light of your experience gained
  • Delegate tasks where appropriate
  • Implement the new plan
  • Stand back and ask yourself: 'What have I learned from this experience that will benefit future performance?'

5. Close the stable door

Make sure that all those involved clearly understand your dictum that any mistake affords an opportunity, not for finger pointing, but for growth. Wipe the slate clean. The world will keep on revolving for some time whatever happens.

 Images: Stock.xchng

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Comments (6)

I agree with you completely Colin. To err is human. What is important is to learn from our mistakes so we don't repeat them. Have a happy and safe holiday.

Delighted to read about the strength in a leader. I liked your way of writing!

Yes, you said them all right. Mistakes are good because they teach us to do what is right the next time. Interesting factoidz.

A mistake can be turned into an opportunity. That is so true because I once encountered a dissatisfied customer and did the best in my powers to rectify the problem which was an error in the copy for the client's advertisement on a daily. I sat down with the client and talked about it admitting to committing the mistake and providing sensible and effective ways to rectify it. Once I did she called me and asked me not to repeat the error again but off course I believe I won a loyal customer for fixing the mistake diplomatically.

Thanks for your comments Teddy - it takes a brave person to admit a mistake - but the feeling of reward is far greater.

PatriciaS

Actually, I'd add one more:

6) Look for the gift. Each and every mistake, error, problem has a hidden gift. With ole Cristopher Columbus, the "gift" was pretty obvious, but it may not always be.

One of my passions is natural and herbal remedies. I just got over a nasty bug that I can usually control with same, but this one wasn't yielding and then got worse with a separate layer of problems. At that point I had to employ an herb to control that, and that herb ended up helpingt with a chronic problem I wasn't even treating. So now I know what to use for that 3rd problem which had me stumped, and I know what combination of herbs to use for that type of bug in future. (Hope that wasn't too confusing.) My illness had actually brought me the gift of knowing what herb to employ for the far more serious chronic problem.

There's always a gift, even if only better understanding of something.

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