The Strategist

The pain that you need: How to learn from your mistakes

09/18/2020 - 05:41

Everyone makes mistakes. The only difference is that successful people learn from mistakes, and losers don't. Ray Dalio, one of the richest people in the world and author of The Principles, is confident that if you create an atmosphere where employees are not afraid to make a mistake and can learn from it, progress will be accelerated, and there will be fewer serious mistakes.

Mistakes hurt, but there is no need to try to defend against them or protect someone. Pain signals that something is wrong and teaches you not to repeat the same thing again. To successfully cope with weaknesses, your own and those of others, you first need to openly admit them, and then look for ways to prevent them from hurting you in the future.

Just at this stage, many say: "No thanks, this is not for me, I prefer not to deal with this." Unfortunately, this is a losing position for both you and the company: it hinders the achievement of goals.

If you remember yourself a year ago and do not be horrified at how stupid you were, then you have not learned anything. Only a few are able to honestly admit their mistakes. In fact, it's okay to make mistakes. It is unacceptable not to learn from them.

Who is next to you?

When managing people, it is important to distinguish between:

1) capable employees who analyze their mistakes and learn from them,
2) incapable employees, or those who do not want to admit their mistakes and learn from them.

The best thing you can do is to hire people who are always ready for introspection. Finding such is not easy. Our parents and educational system exaggerate the value of knowing the answers to all questions. We associate mistakes with failures, not with opportunities. This is the main obstacle to progress.

Accept that mistakes are a natural part of the development process. If you are not afraid to make mistakes in finding the right answer, you can learn a lot and become more effective. But if you can hardly bear it when you are wrong, you have very poor growth prospects: you condemn yourself to a miserable existence. Instead of a healthy and honest search for the truth, you will receive backbiting and mutual barbs.

Here are several principles to help you learn to be wrong.

Truth is more important than righteousness

Don't let your desire to be right always override your need to know the truth. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos aptly put it: “You have to be prepared for failures that repeat themselves over and over again. If you don't feel this readiness inside yourself, you will have to try not to invent anything."

Accept failure with dignity

All people fail. Anyone you watch succeed is only successful in what you pay attention to - and at that very moment fails on many other fronts. Failure is a very painful experience, while success is joyful, so it takes a lot more willpower to fail, change, and succeed than to come to it right away. People who have achieved success immediately, most likely, did not try to go beyond their boundaries of the possible. But worst of all is when a person fails and does not realize it, and therefore does not change.

Don't worry about mistakes. Love them!

People worry about mistakes, because they think only about the unsuccessful result, and not about development, an integral part of which are mistakes. A ski instructor who taught Michael Jordan lessons once said that Jordan enjoyed his mistakes as an opportunity to improve. He understood that mistakes are akin to a puzzle: when you solve it, you get a reward. Every mistake you make and learn from will save you thousands of similar mistakes in the future.

Find your weaknesses

All people have weaknesses. They usually show up in the nature of the mistakes they make. The fastest path to success is to get to know your weaknesses and not lose sight of them. Start writing down your mistakes and then analyze them. What's your weakest point, what is most preventing you from achieving your goals? Write it down. Every person has at least one major weakness. You may have several of them, but stop at the "big three" for now. The first step towards overcoming these obstacles is knowing what you are dealing with.

Distinguish between which errors are acceptable and which are not

When deciding what you are willing to allow employees to commit for learning through trial and error, weigh the potential cost of a miss versus the potential benefit of step-by-step learning. You can afford to scratch your car or make a dent for yourself and your employees, but you shouldn't be in a situation where there is a risk of smashing it into the trash.

Based on "Principles: Life and Work" by Ray Dalio

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