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Are You Learning From Your Mistakes?


Oops"Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes" - Oscar Wilde

Almost every successful person tells us to go ahead and make mistakes since that is the only way to grow. Being software consultant, I never shy away from taking an initiative or a risk. But one recent incident really got me thinking how do mistakes pave our way to growth and success? I had worked on a project for quite some time but it ended up in disappointment.
I did whatever I could do but the client failed to get all the applications running properly. They are of course not fully satisfied with the software and it is now difficult to make any changes.

When we come across such situations in life or at work, there are two choices for us to make. If you fall for the blame game, you are ruined. Yes, there were points I could have used to blame the organization for not providing me the support I requested, for not following my recommendations or for bad project culture. It is easiest to blame high headed clients and take the load off yourself. But you are set for a beautiful journey upwards if you decide to take charge. The moment I made this decision, I started learning.

Everyone makes mistakes at one time or the other. The secret lies in the way you perceive the mistake. It is true that all mistakes can not be corrected. It is also true that you can learn something from every mistake you make. All you need is an open mind and the willingness to make the change. It is your attitude that makes all the difference. You can spend the rest of your life thinking of yourself as the loser. or you can separate yourself from the mistake and see objectively. Failure is an event and not a person: You are not your mistakes.

Mistakes cannot be treated as a complete negative experience. In fact, as long as there is experience, there is benefit. Do not recognize failure as a wastage of time and effort. Thomas Edison rightly said about his failures to make a light bulb “I know of 10,000 ways that do not work”. Every adversity has a seed of success even if it is created by your own mistake. You can learn from each and every one of your mistakes whether big or small. They are the stepping stones to your success.

Even if someone else makes a mistake, you must concentrate on what you could have done better. Sometimes, you do keep too many expectations from other people and if they fail to live up to them, it could be your fault rather than theirs. The real question is “Do you have the courage to face it?” Keeping your own ego aside and focusing on what was right rather than who was right can bring about great changes in your life.



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Opened by Antoine Fournier, Head of ECM, Input and Output management, Zurich Insurance
Sep 12, 2013.



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Vincent Van Damme Sep 12, 2013

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We certainly do, if we want to and have a chance to.

My first boss always said “experience is what we learn from our mistakes” but he continued a few seconds later “I hope you won’t be too soon experienced.” This is often the position of management: failure is tolerated (not easily accepted) and at least you should learn from it. Learning from mistakes is sometimes then just a (light) compensation for failure itself.

Another consequence of this assumption is to consider that the best way of development is the analysis of failures. This kind of approach is so common that it is sometimes officially structured in the organization’s quality processes. This can certainly be interesting, but leads to a kind of negative spirit where we always focus on problems.

That’s why I’dlike to take the point a step further: can we learn from positive experiences? This is the purpose of methods like “appreciative inquiry”: focus on success and see how we can learn from them so succeed in other matters.

What we miss is a driver. If we fail, looking for an explanation is a way to manage mourning and try to turn it in a positive way. In case of success, our tendency is to feel and express (self) satisfaction and not look further. Yet, if I can use your own words, Antoine, “Success is an event as well and not a person: You are not your successes.”

We have then a double condition to succeed. “Have the courage to face the real cause of failure” and “have the modesty to face the real cause of success”.

If we do, we can say that we learn from any experience the same way… and if your organization is doing as well as mine, you will have even more opportunities to learn :-)

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Antoine Fournier 67 Antoine Fournier Head of ECM, Input and Output management, Zurich Insurance

Sep 13, 2013

You're right, Vincent, and we try to learn from mistake because we want to succeed. It is common that successfull people do not try to change/learn (and this is a mistake :).

What makes a success is usually a "magic" combination of good decisions and chance, probably very much harder to analyse than a failure.

How many flight security improvement comes from a normal and smooth flight? None, I suspect.


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Nadine Hack CEO, beCause Global Consulting
Sep 13, 2013

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What I like best about this is emphasis on: You are NOT your mistakes; EVERYONE makes mistakes. Having the courage to learn from one's mistakes rather than trying frantically to hide them or, even worse, desperately trying to never make them, is a critical factor in becoming a better leader ad a better human being!

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Antoine Fournier Head of ECM, Input and Output management, Zurich Insurance
Sep 15, 2013


If you're interested in the subject, you should not miss this post from Scott Berkun on LifeHacker. He defines different types of mistake to help in learning from them:

  1. Stupid: Absurdly dumb things that just happen.
  2. Simple: Mistakes that are avoidable but your sequence of decisions made inevitable.
  3. Involved: Mistakes that are understood but require effort to prevent.
  4. Complex: Mistakes that have complicated causes and no obvious way to avoid next time.

I consider of course the most beneficial learning is from complex mistakes as human beings are complex systems, but quick wins are daily found from others :)

Ref : http://lifehacker.com/5863490/how-to-learn-from-your-mistakes
Scott's blog : http://scottberkun.com/

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Vinod Varghese Manager - Business Development, PIT Solutions
Nov 4, 2013


Making mistakes in work, well personally I'm not comfortable with that idea. Of course, we make mistakes in personal life but in work especially IT projects we are involved in, mistakes can ruin our reputation and integrity. In personal life, most cases, you might have the opportunity and time to rectify the mistake but do we have that luxury in business?

But its human nature, when you make a mistake, very few people own up to it. Either resort to typical blame game or try to hide it. I don't think make mistake a at work and you will be forgiven. Not in today's highly competitive corporate world. If we make a critical mistake in a project, do you think the client or partner would have the heart and patience to forgive?

So that proves the famous saying - To err is human, to forgive is divine. We are all human, we can make mistakes but we are not divinely tolerant to forgive in the corporate world.

BTW, depends on the level of mistake and the damage caused by the mistake too.

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Antoine Fournier Head of ECM, Input and Output management, Zurich Insurance
Nov 5, 2013


I've just been told about this quote : "When you lose, don't lose the lesson" Dalai Lama
(thank you Fabienne Krier)

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Vinod Varghese 05 Vinod Varghese Manager - Business Development, PIT Solutions

Nov 6, 2013

Good quote Antoine. That makes perfect sense.


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Jesse Domingo Leadership Adviser, Strategist
Nov 7, 2013


While we know that we all make mistakes, remember, there are two kinds of mistakes: revocable and irrevocable.

Thorough study and planning lessens the negative impact, just always consider who gets affected and how.

As for lessons, don't wait for mistakes to overwhelm you - learn and adjust on the fly. If you can't help the rolling of the snowball, try to guide it to safer grounds...

...then analyze what really happened and adjust. Time is key.

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Vinod Varghese 05 Vinod Varghese Manager - Business Development, PIT Solutions

Nov 8, 2013

That's true, well put Jesse. Totally agree with you there. Time is crucial. Whats the point if a company spends months and years on developing a new product but when it releases, its not accepted by the customers. In such cases, timely beta versions need to be released and see how it is accepted and if there are mistakes, make changes where necessary.