Tag Archive for 'mistakes'

A mistake’s value depends upon lesson learned

Mistakes are worth contemplating, and yet we often don’t.  The reason, I think, is because it hurts a little to focus on them.  It’s not fun to see ourselves that way.  Mistakes are definitely not ego food.

But there is something very important to remember about mistakes: not focusing on them can ultimately be more painful.  

In Tom Feltenstein’s inspiring book, Uncommon Wisdom, I found this quote from Michel de Montaigne,” Those things are dearest to us that have cost us the most.”  Think he’s talking about mistakes?  I do.  Do you think of your mistakes as dear?

If you don’t contemplate your mistakes and learn from them, you are subjecting yourself to double jeopardy. Because today you will not only make the new mistakes we are all destined to make as we go through life, but you are also doomed to repeat the old ones you should have learned from yesterday.

Whether your mistakes are valuable or expensive depends on whether you contemplate and learn from them, or deny and keep on paying for them.  I think paying for a mistake once is dear enough, don’t you?

“What was I thinking?”

I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?

This is the title lyric of a country song by Dierks Bentley. It’s about a boy who lets a pretty face get him into a whole lot of trouble on their first date.

In matters of courtship, who hasn’t done things–which we may have regretted the next day–that were impulsive and just plain boneheaded?

Of course, there’s no accounting for this behavior when it comes to affairs of the heart. But when a small business owner says, “I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?” it probably results in the proverbial winged sack of money flying away.

Being passionate about starting a business is very important, but the business failure rate would drop like a stone if more prospective entrepreneurs understood that success in business requires more than desire: It takes knowledge of the industry and knowledge of business fundamentals–especially cash flow–and total commitment in case the passion fades.

“I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?” is the post-passion lament of the passionate, but too impulsive, start-up business owner.

For more mature small business owners, that question may be less dangerous only to the degree that being established assumes some level of market penetration and critical mass.

This is not complicated: Fixing business mistakes costs money and, unlike a start-up, if you have customers, you’re more likely, but by no means guaranteed, to be able to operate through the impact of a bad decision.

A mentor once told me, “Sales will cure most business ills.” But why would seasoned business owners commit this rookie mistake? Often their post-passion lament is caused by ego or desperation.

The road to business failure is paved with the assets of seasoned owners who didn’t understand that in any new venture they should think of themselves as a start-up again, only this time with more to lose and possibly a runaway ego. Mixing ego and capital, especially borrowed capital, is a dangerous cocktail that has taken down many a business.

Another mentor once told me, “Desperate people do desperate things.” Sometimes owners don’t see market and industry shifts before it’s too late. Sadly, in their desire to save their businesses, instead of believing their own eyes, they desperately seek I-know-what-I-was-feeling solutions that conform to what they want to see.

But reality didn’t get its name by being wrong, and “What was I thinking?” is the lament of the desperate. Denial is a powerful and seductive drug, and it’s the handmaiden of desperation.

In love, impulsiveness can be cute; in business, it’s the straightest line to failure.

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How dear are your small business mistakes?

Mistakes are worth contemplating, and yet we often don’t. The reason, I think, is because it hurts a little to focus on them. It’s not fun to see ourselves that way. Mistakes are definitely not ego food.

But there is something very important to remember about mistakes: Not focusing on them can ultimately be more painful.

Sixteenth century French Renaissance writer, Michel de Montaigne, wrote, “Those things are dearest to us that have cost us the most.” Think he’s talking about mistakes? I do. Do you think of your mistakes as “dear”?

If you don’t contemplate your mistakes and learn from them, you are subjecting yourself to double jeopardy. Because today you will not only make the new mistakes we are all destined to make as we go through life, but you’re also doomed to repeat the old ones you should have learned from yesterday.

Whether your mistakes are valuable or expensive depends on whether you contemplate and learn from them, or deny them and keep on paying for them. I think paying for a mistake once is “dear” enough, don’t you?




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