In my last two “Saturday Musings” I’ve shared about the two life principles of truth and trust. Both these principles are the foundation stones for building strong relationships that stand the test of time. Even though they are vitally important, without the third principle learning, truth and trust can become soul destroying as you berate yourself for, yet again making another mistake.
A learning mindset means that when you “blow it”, you give yourself the grace to learn from the situation. This provides the liberty to improve yourself if you’re faced with the same issue again. A learning mind focuses not on condemnation but on improvement.
To illustrate this point, let me share with you a story that I read a number of years ago. An IBM salesman received a phone call that meant he’d missed out on a $10 million-dollar deal. He’d put a lot of effort into trying to secure the agreement, but the results clearly showed that he’d cost the company a lot of money.
With a downcast face he packed his personal belongings into a box, stepped out into the hallway and closed his office door for the last behind him. He headed to his boss’s office to say good-bye. “It’s always better to resign rather than be fired,” he said to himself.
With his box tucked under one arm he knocked on the door.
His boss’s firm voice sounded from within, “Come in.”
“I suppose you’ve heard.”
“Yes I have.”
The salesman reached into his box to pull out a white envelope. “I’m really sorry about the situation. I wanted to save you the trouble of firing me so here’s my letter of resignation.”
His boss looked him in the eye, “Do you think I’m going to fire you just after I paid $10 million-dollars to have you trained?”
That salesman went on to become one of IBM’s top sales people in the world.
When you hit adversity in your life, how do you respond? Do you pack your box and prepare to run with your tail between your legs or do you try to learn from the situation?
One of the most difficult tasks anyone can do is to change themselves. To break a habit and bring changes to your thinking requires a level of focus and persistence that at times can be quite daunting. Even with an enlightened boss, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for the salesman to learn from his failure and become better at his job.
Over the years, I’ve seen too many people crushed by failure when what they really needed to do was spend some time learning from their mistakes. It’s OK to be downcast for a time….in fact, grieving is part of the learning process but constantly kicking yourself for a mistake isn’t healthy. One of the joys of learning is that this mindset allows you to make mistakes.
When I was still at school I would come home with a test result and proudly show my mother that I received 95%. She would say, “Well done,” and then question me about the 5% I got wrong. It wasn’t until later in life that I understood why she did this. It was all about learning.
If you think about it, I already knew the 95%....so where was I going to learn? My learning came from understanding my mistakes in the 5%. This was a real revelation to me and one that I found opened my own life up to incredible possibilities.
Locked away in the learning mindset is the fact that failure in itself isn’t wrong. In fact, if you aren't failing it's because either the target is too close or too big so you can't miss. What is wrong is not learning from your failures. Not learning is a lost opportunity to really understand yourself and often those around you.
When hiring someone for a job, typical western based companies place an incredible amount of emphasis on the successes in a person’s CV. What we need to spend more time considering is what a person learned from their failures. Thankfully this success focused mindset is slowly changing as many Silicon Valley VCs are viewing a person’s failures as a time when they learned how to really manage a start-up…..
Truth, trust and learning. All three of these life principles can help build stronger relationships and a greater amount of joy in our lives. Never forget that learning is your “get out of jail free” card to a better life. So the question I will leave you with is, "What did you learn from your last failure?"
Have a great weekend.