Looking In the Mirror: Learning from our past

“Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.” – Colin Powell, Former U.S. National Security Advisor, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired 4-star general 

Edinburgh, Scotland has founded a Library of Mistakes that has compiled a collection of 2,000 books that help the next generation avoid future mistakes. The Curator has stated that this collection proves that “smart people are doing stupid things” and he believes that the only way to strengthen an organization and the economy is to learn from prior mistakes.

As we continue our discussion on this year’s theme of Looking in the Mirror (https://mailchi.mp/5f69c0941fc6/lookinginthemirror2024), it is valuable to occasionally pause and learn from our past: both successes and failures.

This is so important to the ongoing success of any organization as it:

  • Identifies areas of weakness and improvement opportunities
  • Encourages an environment of ongoing improvement
  • Allows for the establishment of a formal methodology to routinely assess the performance of your organization

In John C. Maxwell’s book, Failing Forward, he emphasizes that the challenges are not that we are going to have disappointments and failures (because we will). Instead, he states “Failure is simply a price we pay to achieve success.” As we look at our past, we can learn that failure actually is a roadmap to success by encouraging us to continue to take risks and learn for the failures when we make them. By embracing our failures and allowing ourselves to “fail forward,” we instead position ourselves for greater opportunities than we originally imagined.

Maxwell continues his insights within Failing Forward, by saying: “Successful people have learned to do what does not come naturally. Nothing worth achieving comes easily. The only way to fail forward and achieve your dreams is to cultivate tenacity and persistence.” So, he encourages us to “Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.”

As John Wooden said so well: “It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.” As we look in the mirror, stop and consider the following:  

  • When is the last time you took a look at a failure to assess what can be learned from it?
  • Are you so afraid to fail that you are not taking risks – and the right risks – to propel your organization forward?

Embrace those mistakes and failures so that you can propel your organization forward.

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