27 July 2005

Mistakes Lead To Success

Scott Berkun is a project management expert who understands that most project management is actually self-management plus managing people. You might think "That's obvious," but let Me ask you: If you've ever managed a project from beginning to end, did you start and focus on tasks, goals, processes to get the job done, or did you focus on and factor in personalities, especially your own?

The "people portion" of project management is crucial to success because it encompasses almost all the vital factors to achieving that success. People do almost all the work, so almost all the potential obstacles and problems are people-related. And one of the aspects that creates the most problems is dealing with mistakes.

Mistakes happen, often. How they are dealt with, by the project leader(s) and project members is often the difference between success and failure. As Steven points out:

"...for many reasons admitting mistakes is difficult. An implied value in many cultures is that our work represents us: if you fail a test, then you are a failure. If you make a mistake then you are a mistake..."

In his excellent post, Steven defines how We can learn from Our mistakes, an immensely valuable skill that everyone should learn in childhood. Steven's essay has many interesting points, some of which The Jenius has excerpted here:

Learning from mistakes requires three things:

1) Putting yourself in situations where you can make interesting mistakes.
2) Having the self-confidence to admit to them.
3) Being courageous about making changes.

Steps 2 and 3 are beyond most people's current self-esteem level, but Step 1 has an intriguing concept: "interesting mistakes." Steven goes on to give his definition of the four kinds of mistakes one can make:

---Stupid: Absurdly dumb things that just happen. Stubbing your toe, dropping your pizza on your neighbor’s fat cat or poking yourself in the eye with a banana.
---Simple: Mistakes that are avoidable but your sequence of decisions made inevitable. Having the power go out in the middle of your party because you forgot to pay the rent, or running out of beer at said party because you didn’t anticipate the number of guests.
---Involved: Mistakes that are understood but require effort to prevent. Regularly arriving late to work/friends, eating fast food for lunch every day, or going bankrupt at your start-up company because of your complete ignorance of basic accounting.
---Complex: Mistakes that have complicated causes and no obvious way to avoid next time. Examples include making tough decisions that have bad results, relationships that fail, or other unpleasant or unsatisfying outcomes to important things.

Now for the kicker:

"The kind of mistakes you make define you. The more interesting the mistakes, the more interesting the life. If your biggest mistakes are missing reruns of tv-shows or buying the wrong lottery ticket you’re not challenging yourself enough to earn more interesting mistakes."

The essay is well-worth reading and absorbing, but in a nutshell:

---One can--and must--learn from mistakes.
---To learn from mistakes, one must be willing to admit to them and be willing to make changes. "If you can’t see the gaps, flaws, or weaknesses in your behavior you’re forever trapped in the same behavior and limitations you’ve always had, possibly since you were a child."
---The quality of your mistakes defines whether you can grow or not. Trivial mistakes lead to trivial growth.

I'll let Steven express the optimism of this approach in his own words:

"So the most important lesson in all of mistake making is to trust that while mistakes are inevitable, if you can learn from the current one, you’ll also be able to learn from future ones. No matter when happens tomorrow you’ll be able to get value from it, and apply it to the day after that. Progress won’t be a straight line but if you keep learning you will have more successes than failures, and the mistakes you make along the way will help you get to where you want to go."

The Jenius Has Quoted.

1 comment:

-Poison- said...

i liked this post. mistakes make the man.