Compounded Mistakes and Successes

Something that often comes up when you watch cop shows on TV is the concept of compounding mistakes. You may be familiar with this from watching those types of shows too, or from talking with friends about things that have recently happened in their lives along the lines of “so this person did this, then they did this, and then they did this!” Sometimes it’s one of those really bad days that you just can’t seem to get a break, and it just keeps going further and further down hill. Other times maybe we figure we’re in enough trouble already, there couldn’t possibly be more coming our way or that doing anything else could make it much worse. But the reality is that we absolutely can make things worse on ourselves, and maybe we can’t fix what’s gone wrong thus far, but we can make the choice to stop things from spiraling any further downhill.

So if the answer is unequivocally that yes, things can get worse for you if you don’t take steps to stop the roll, then the opposite is true as well: that you can take steps to compound your success. There’s a weight loss commercial that comes to mind for one of the growing companies in the field, and in the commercial they’ve got people talking about how the program has helped them understand how their brain works and build healthier habits, and how it’s actually helped them not just lose weight but keep the weight off. Whether this company is doing anything truly different from other companies, I don’t know and it’s not really the point, but the reason the commercial really piqued my interest is because of the talk about building good habits, not just habits or making you change things that you don’t really want to change, but adding good things to your life, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to add some good stuff to their life?

You can’t permanently avoid the really bad days, they just come along once in a while. But, you can do something to help yourself have better days more often. Yes, it does start with paying attention so that you see when you’re in a downward spiral, and do something, whatever you can, to stop it. But it’s a lot easier to build on successes than it is to stop a runaway train. So when you do something well, first take a moment to celebrate that. When something goes well for you because you did it a certain way, take note of that for the future (a literal note if necessary). Build at least one guaranteed victory into your schedule each day. Work on adding habits to your life that help you build a healthier, happier, more fulfilling future. Add to things that are good, going well and positively gaining strength.  What successes will you build upon today?

Fail Fast

This week I heard a phrase that I haven’t heard in a while regarding success: fail fast. No one really likes failure, but failing fast means that not only do you determine what’s not going to help you gain success, you also get that awful feeling and mess out of your life sooner rather than later. Sometimes you can fail fast by looking at what others have done or by getting advice from those who have been through a similar situation before, but more often than not it’s just something you have to be aware of, looking for and recognizing when things aren’t working as you wanted them to or hoped they would.

Choosing to turn a blind eye to what may not be working in your life or business means that it will take longer to realize you’re facing failure and find a solution. It’s not fun to fail or have problems in life, but we all do. Letting things fester and/or linger not only creates problems for you, it often creates problems with the other people in your life, creating a lack of respect and hurting trust that has been built.  This is where much of employee dissatisfaction comes from and broken relationships as well.

So this week I encourage you to find some courage. Be courageous and face the challenges and likely failures in your life, admit where things aren’t working as well as they should or you would like them to, talk with people about getting the help or ideas you need to break through the failures and work towards success, and work on opening yourself to changes that may be necessary to help you get over the failure and then work towards victory.  What lessons have you learned lately about success and failure?

Frustrated With Failure

Today I’m feeling frustrated. I’m frustrated at the limitations we sometimes experience with our bodies. I’m frustrated that sometimes at the worst times possible things that seem so reliable (planes, phones, buildings) fail us. I’m frustrated that even with all the testing and trial we do some products still don’t work as they’re supposed to. I’m frustrated that all these things fail. I’m frustrated that we’re left holding the (empty) bag when all is said and done. I’m frustrated that some people seem like they just keep getting kicked and never get a break.

Failure is part of our growing experience.  Ask anyone who has experience growing plants and food, they will tell you that there are many factors that can affect the success of their crops and that even when they’ve learned the best practices and are following through with them, sometimes it still doesn’t work out because of something outside of their control.  The failure is almost more frustrating then because you’ve done everything right and it still didn’t work out.

But at the same time, when you’ve done everything right and something outside of your control gets in the way and you fail, it’s almost easier to pick yourself back up again and try again because you know how well it was going before and assuming there won’t be another exterior factor that interferes, you know what to do to be successful.

Failure is a hard lesson to be taught though, and it’s frustrating too when some people don’t seem to fail at all, they just seem to get lucky or get it right all the time.  But if you were to sit down with those people, chances are good they would have stories of failure they could share, even if they seem relatively inconsequential like a recipe turning out terrible for dinner the other night or accidentally putting a wrong item in the wash and everything turning a color.   These are more mistakes than failures, and a mistake is a level of failure, just not on the level of failing to grow a company or not having a successful growing season or the relationship not lasting.

Failure will typically beat you down. The question is what comes next.  Do you stay in the frustrated stage or do you work to pick yourself up and find some way to move on, even if it’s in a completely new direction?  There’s nothing that says you have to get it right the first time, just don’t give up when you experience a failure.

Failures and Regrets

Regrets: we all have them in life. Maybe they’re from something we did, or maybe they’re from something we didn’t do. Regret can be defined as “to feel sorrow or remorse for, to think of with a sense of loss, dissatisfaction, disappointment.” I do plenty of rethinking a situation or conversation and about what I could/should have done and mentally rework situations, so I tend towards the dissatisfaction aspect of regrets rather than the sorrow or loss aspects. But maybe you’re someone who thinks more along the lines of what could have been or feels frustration with what was. Maybe you’re not someone who deals in regret as much but rather gets stuck in failure.

Failure and regret are cousins in a sense, because both can create a sense of loss. Both also come with the lesson of the importance of what you do or choose next. If we’re so stuck in failure and/or regret we’ll miss out on the opportunity to do better or start to fix our mistakes in the next situation. No, you can’t turn the clock back to bring someone, including yourself, back to life, but you can choose going forward to be better about saying what you mean and meaning what you say and investing in the lives of the people who mean the most to you, or doing something differently so you don’t end up with the same result.

Lately I’ve been hearing quite a few people reference Thomas Edison and how he said “I haven’t failed — I’ve just found 10,000 that won’t work.” Stopping at failure means that you’re not going to try again, that you don’t have hope that you can do better or solve the problem. Occasionally this is a good choice, because you recognize that you’ve reached the end of your capabilities at this time and aren’t going to keep pushing senselessly. You recognize that it’s time to pass the responsibility or opportunity on to someone else.

You can’t pass regrets off on someone else, but others can learn from your regrets. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people comment about deathbed statements and how there’s some regret included there about what they didn’t do or who they were. Sometimes there’s no way to avoid the regret because a terminal illness has taken the choice away from them, but in many cases it’s people who lived their long life a certain way and now looking back are wishing they had done something different.

So if you’re dealing with a regret today I would encourage you to take time to consider it. Feel the emotions wrapped up in it and decide if the experience will change how you do things or who you are going forward. If you’re dealing with a failure, don’t spend too long looking at the failure as a failure, instead let it help guide you to making decisions about how or if you’re moving forward, or what you can learn from what didn’t work or go right.

Failure and Loss in Business

Just about every day in the news there’s a story about how a company is struggling or losing or failing. Over the past few years we’ve seen the struggles that some of the biggest brands have been going through, some able to do something of a turnaround, others not able to pull themselves out of a hole.

It’s frustrating from the perspective of outsiders like myself who advise businesses and see some glaring issues they aren’t addressing or trying or have simply dismissed. I also don’t always believe we need businesses the size that some are and their size is definitely a factor in how much they’re struggling. But I do believe every business has something to contribute, and when they fail they are letting people down. Yes, every business has a life cycle and many have a definitive end (such as when the owner retires), but I’d much rather see a business go out on a high note than crash and burn.

It’s also frustrating from a customer perspective when they’re seeing a company they love struggle and may even have some anxiety or fear around the loss of the company from a service or product perspective. If you rely on a product or service for your health or care of your family, there’s a much higher cost to switch than if we’re talking about something like a lawn care company.

It’s never a good idea to avoid the bad news or data about how well you’re doing or how you may be struggling. The sooner we face the truth, the easier it is to fix or address it. We also need to find a balance between continually increasing the number of customers we reach with not getting too big to manage and sustain. And the final truth we need to accept is that sometimes businesses fail and that’s just the way it goes. The good news is there are other businesses out there that can fill in the gap, but of course it’s likely not the same.

As I said from the beginning, I don’t think businesses need to fail in spectacular ways. As business owners we need to be more prepared for the natural ups and downs that a business goes through, we need to be more willing to reach out and get help and accept criticism, and we need to be open to change and growth so that we can change and grow as our customers do.  What steps does your business need you to take today?

Dealing with Failures and Outages

The big business news this week so far is about Facebook’s outage on Wednesday and into Thursday for some. Facebook is used by people and businesses alike around the world, so when something like this happens it’s not something they can really brush under the rug. This issue hits on many topics that we’ve talked about recently as well as we talk about frequently like doing business together, communication, customer service and quality, and it also holds a great warning for all of us, so I thought I would share a few thoughts on it today.

Let’s start with the dark side of this whole thing. It can happen to anyone. It can get you bad publicity. It can make you lose customers. It’s something every business should talk about: what to do if there’s a catastrophic failure, what to do if data is lost, what to do if the product fails, what to do if leadership gets caught doing something bad. Being aware of that it could go wrong and having a plan for if it does go wrong is half the battle, the other half has to do with your reaction, communication and actions after the event. You may be able to take the right actions quickly, but if you poorly communicate about the whole thing you may lose any traction you could have made with the speedy repair.

Let’s talk about what Facebook did, that we know at this point. Yes, they obviously got to work on fixing it as soon as possible so more people weren’t affected and those that were would be able to get back on as soon as possible. Then they had a decision to make: how do we communicate this and do we communicate this. They made a really interesting decision, one that I doubt many people would have guessed, and that’s posted on Twitter to let people know what was up. It’s not necessarily the wrong decision (they could have used email), but it is kind of funny and is a good reminder that as much as you want to build a strong business, stronger than your competition, it’s always good to have an open line of communication for situations like these.

The situation will continue to unfold over the next days and weeks, and it will be interesting to see how they follow up on this. What would I like to see? At the very least I’d like to see messages on their Facebook and Instagram accounts sharing about what happened and letting people know it’s fully resolved and if any actions/precautions are being taken in brief with a link to a blog post on their blog with more depth and details. If there were any accounts hacked or breached, those people should be notified by internal message on the network and by email. I’d also like to see them to contact businesses that were actively running paid ads at the time and affected by the outage and fill them in on how the downed network will affect that ad run.

Of course, they may just choose to sweep this under the rug, and for many they’ll just continue on with Facebook as usual. But for the smart business owners, I would hope this serves as a warning that if your only means of supporting your business is through Facebook you should be looking into additional and supplemental ways to market and grow your business. It’s as is often said, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. What are your thoughts on the situation?

From Failure to Success

When you talk about success there are several ways you can go about it and many definitions of success. There are big successes and there are small successes. Someone that many people have followed over the years in terms of a success journey is Martha Stewart. Starting really with cookbooks in 1982 ever since then Martha has been building an empire that now includes TV shows, websites, cookbooks, magazines, and food and home products.

But if you’ve followed her story you know that she spent several months in jail in 2004-2005 followed by several years of probation for being convicted of conspiracy and other non-violent offenses. This is a huge blow to anyone who is trying to build a company, and a reminder that anyone can be so caught up in their success that they can make bad decisions. And she paid the price for her bad decisions.

Like anyone else Martha Stewart then had to make a decision about what would happen next. She probably could have retired from public life and quietly run one or more smaller private companies and done OK. But instead she chose to stand tall and let her talent and passion shine. I see her on many channels around the TV listings these days, from cooking shows to shopping shows to news shows, around the internet and making all kinds of partnerships with businesses and celebrities. From all appearances she’s happy and doing well, and just as passionate and dedicated as she has always been.

Most of us will make a couple of mistakes or have some failures in our success journey, few of us are able to do it without screwing up. Often success is a question of how we recover after our failures, not just how well we do the success journey. If you’re struggling with your success journey today know that you can push through or turn things around, it’s a question of how passionate and dedicated you are to making it happen.

Learning our Lesson

You’re probably familiar with the concept of “rubbing it in.” This is when we poke, prod, remind and joke over something someone else did and we either witnessed it or were told about it.  If you think back to the last time someone rubbed your mistake, miscalculation, failure, poor guess or their success in your face you’ll probably remember that it didn’t feel so great.   And when it happens again and again, it feels even worse.

It’s important to celebrate our success with each other. It’s also important to gently (or not so gently if the situation calls for it) correct someone.  We learn from our successes and our failures.  But we don’t learn anything except that we don’t like certain people when they start rubbing things in our face, especially repeatedly.

When someone screws up or makes a funny yes, it’s great to laugh along and see the humor in the situation.  It’s not OK to bring it up 3, 6, 9, 12 months later and be like “remember that time you really screwed up?!” even if they’ve come a long way since then.

It’s good to have a little humor at life’s mistakes.  Have a laugh, learn your lesson and move on to applying it.  Don’t drag anyone through the mud, they’re probably already kicking themselves anyway.

“…it is nice to let someone who admits an error feel better after doing so…not feel worse.” Neale Donald Walsch

Navigating Mistakes

Today I’m thinking about a “favorite” topic: mistakes. Sometimes we make true mistakes where we really had no idea we were about to screw up. Sometimes we make those mistakes that we kinda had an idea that it wouldn’t work out right, but we went for it anyway. Some mistakes are easier to come back from than others. But all mistakes can teach us a valuable lesson if we’re willing to learn it. Mistakes are different from failures because mistakes are something you were wrong about, but a failure is a lack of success. Sometimes mistakes do lead to failures, and sometimes failures can drive us to make mistakes and bad decisions.

In some ways mistakes are like luck that you’ve only got so much influence over what happens. There are certainly some things you can do to have better luck or make fewer mistakes, but there’s also a lot you can’t do. For example one of the simplest topics in regards with luck are lottery tickets, if you want to be lucky with lottery tickets it helps to actually buy one. The same is true with mistakes, if you want to make fewer mistakes one thing you can do is think and really consider your options before you act.

Mistakes, like failures, work best if you admit they happened and own what went wrong. Yes, it’s absolutely allowable to say you had no idea it was about to go wrong, but then you’ve got to move on to fixing the mistake or moving on. For example if you got in a car accident and you honestly didn’t see the other car there and you were paying attention, it was a mistake that you truly didn’t see coming, but you did cause the accident and now you have to fix it.

I think it makes it a little easier to move on when we do accept them and deal with them. If we don’t accept and deal with them, there’s an increased likelihood that you’re going to keep going over and over it, and you’re going to let it keep bothering you and holding you back from living a fulfilling life. So what do you need to accept this week that you’ve been holding on to for no good reason?

Failure, Defeat and Success Plans

Once again today I’m thinking about what happens when things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes it doesn’t work as expected because you didn’t factor in some important detail. Sometimes it doesn’t work because something outside your control got screwed up. Sometimes the plan that someone else is working on runs yours off the road or makes it not feasible to continue for the time being. Sometimes it doesn’t work out because you don’t give it enough effort or get the right people involved. Sometimes it doesn’t work because you’ve been trying too hard or are too tired. Sometimes it doesn’t work because you’re so busy looking to get revenge that you aren’t looking at success. Sometimes it’s a communication issue. And sometimes it’s a bad idea from the start and never would have worked.

The plan, your success and failures are all things that we need to be aware of and considering as business owners. Sometimes I’m thankful when the plan fails. Maybe it gives me a little flexibility I really needed. Maybe it gives me the encouragement to pursue an opportunity I’ve been putting off. Maybe it gives me the chance to spend time with my partner. Maybe it gives me time to catch up on paperwork (or the digital version of it). Or maybe it forces me to think up a better idea and come up with a better or different plan. Most of the time when our plans don’t work out we’re more frustrated than thankful, and it can be especially frustrating when you run out of time like we are as we rapidly approach the end of another year.

So what do you do when things aren’t going according to plan? Sometimes pushing through is the right answer. Sometimes it’s taking a nap or giving up for the day/night. Sometimes it’s working on something else for a short period of time. Sometimes it’s unloading the whole story on a friend, business associate or your partner. Sometimes it’s trying a different marketing strategy. Sometimes it’s trying something different. Sometimes it’s calling the year a wrap and making better plans for the next year.

I find that plans work best when you do a few things: first, think things through. This involves thinking with your brain, doing some online research and talking with your target market or other relevant people. When you do that you’re always better set up for success. Second, take care of the most important aspects first whenever possible. Yes, take time to work on the fun stuff that excites you about your plans, but also make sure that you’re giving equal or more attention to the biggest priorities that need to happen for your plan to be in motion. Third, have the right support. The people and resources around you who support you are some of the biggest keys to whether or not you’ll be successful.

If you’re dealing with a plan failure (or even a business failure) this week, I encourage you not to give up, but instead to take a step back and try some of the things you should have done in the first place or things you thought about but put to the side. You never know what the answer will be that you’ve been looking for or where you’ll find it.