The ROI on making mistakes and failing

Let’s face it, none of us like making mistakes or failing. Especially if we are small-business owners and operators. Like me, you may intellectually understand that every time you stuff up there is an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, or that they often present new opportunities and ideas. But that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. Unfortunately, risk avoidance and fear of making mistakes is alive well in business and it is holding many back.

I have had the opportunity of interviewing hundreds of business owners and entrepreneurs over the past few years and one thing that stands out from anyone who has been successful is that they have a completely different mindset towards failure. They don’t see it as something bad or to be avoided – and sure, they don’t go out of their way to make mistakes – but they have an opportunistic view of failure and they understand that every time they fail or make a mistake, there is a lesson to be learned. And they act on it.

If you documented what you learned each time you made a mistake or failed at something you would be amazed at what you see. If you then documented the return on those lessons, you may also be very surprised.

Here are some ideas to get you started with seeing failure differently.

Own your mistakes

It is very easy not to own up to mistakes, especially when you make them. It’s easy to sweep a failure under the rug or stick your head in the proverbial bucket of sand. But obviously that does no one any good. Know this… if you run a small business you will make mistakes so you might as well own them and learn from them.

Get Curious

Unless you get curious about why something went wrong and you will never learn from your mistakes and, as a result, benefit from them. So when things do go wrong you need to ask such questions as ‘why did they go wrong?’ ‘What could you have done differently?’ ‘What did you miss?’ ‘Who can help you correct it?’. Don’t get upset when things go wrong, get curious.

Treat mistakes as you would formal education

Business owners and entrepreneurs are very good at constantly learning new things. Like others you may regularly enrol in seminars, courses, read business books, or learn from mentors. If you are to benefit from your mistakes, then why not treat failure as part of your business education.

The lessons, the knowledge, the ideas and the experience gained are worth as much if not more than a formal business education. Nothing teaches you faster, more effectively and more honestly than when you stuff things up, if you are brave enough and open enough to learn.

Adopt a growth mindset

In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck talks about choosing one of two different mindsets. Fixed and Growth. If you have a fixed mindset you tend to believe your abilities are set in stone and cannot be improved.

As a result, when things go wrong you see them as things beyond your control and that you can’t overcome because you see your abilities as limited. If you choose a growth mindset you believe your abilities and skills can be expanded and as a result when things go wrong, you see them as challenges to learn and grow from.

As small business-owners this is really important because things do wrong it gives you a different view and perspective. When we choose to have a growth mindset, we start to see mistakes and failures not as insurmountable barriers and as the end of days, but as lessons and as opportunities to learn and grow from.

Nigel Collin, Business Coach and Author of ‘Game of Inches’

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