Harvey Mackay: Embrace mistakes as opportunities for growth
BY HARVEY MACKAY United Feature Syndicate
Sunday, February 10, 2013
2/10/13 at 4:08 AM
I've often said the greatest mistake a person can make is to be afraid to make one.
To be successful, you must come to terms with the notion that you will make mistakes. In fact, you often need to increase your failures to become more successful. Mistakes don't make you a failure. I always say if you want to triple your success ratio, you might have to triple your failure rate.
Mistakes are OK as long as you learn from them and don't repeat them. As Confucius said, "A man who has made a mistake and doesn't correct it is making another mistake." I say it a little differently: One mistake will never kill you. The same mistake over and over will.
This concept is perfectly illustrated in the story of the fellow who was explaining to his neighbor how he got a burn on his right ear. "I was getting ready to iron my shirts, and the phone rang. I picked up the iron by mistake."
The neighbor replied, "Well, then, how did you burn your left ear?"
"The same guy called back five minutes later."
Tom Watson Jr. was the CEO of IBM from 1956 to 1971. A senior executive made a large mistake costing the company a bunch of money. When Watson called him into his office, the executive said something like, "I suppose you're going to fire me." Watson replied, "Not at all, young man, we have just spent a fortune educating you."
The great inventor Thomas Edison said: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." When Edison's factory burned down with much of his life's work inside, he said: "There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew."
Here's advice on turning around your mistakes:
Be honest. Never try to cover up mistakes. The earlier you 'fess up, the faster you'll be able to correct the problem while maintaining your credibility.
Take responsibility. Your bosses and your customers don't want to hear excuses.
Follow up and follow through. Sometimes simple mistakes point to more complex problems that need to be corrected. A thorough evaluation can reveal something that needs to improve.
Use the opportunity to turn around a situation. Mistakes often are prime times for people to turn bad situations into positive ones. Any customer service guru will tell you that a lost ticket can be the perfect time to provide the best customer service you have to offer.
Consider the hammer: It keeps its head. It doesn't fly off the handle. It keeps pounding away. It finds the point and then drives it home. It looks at the other side, too, and this often clinches the matter. It makes mistakes, but when it does, it starts all over.
Mackay's Moral: There are really no mistakes in life. There are only lessons.
Original Print Headline: Embrace mistakes as an opportunity for growth
Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." To send him a question or comment, go to tulsaworld.com/mackayfeedback.