5 Biggest Mistakes and What I Learned from Making Them

We all hear success stories all the time. But, Ray Edwards inspired me to think about failures and what we can learn from them instead. Ray did a podcast a few weeks back entitled My Biggest Business Mistakes and What You Can Learn From Them. I learned a lot listening to Ray, so, I decided to send write about some blunders of my own – my biggest mistakes in my career.

 

Courtesy Flicker (Creative Commons)

1. Getting Lured into Something I Did Not Care About

A few years ago I got into a deal with American IP. The company was founded by a former client and good friend Steve Puckett. Steve is contagiously passionate about what he does, and I got drawn into the passion. The company was a wireless telecom play. One of the investors, recognizing my background in telecom and my connections to investment capital, asked me to join the deal. I did.

But I knew going in that I really was bored with telecom. I really had no interest in getting into this deal. The resulting activity in the company took about 18 months and consumed me. It was fun, I learned a lot, but it totally distracted me from what I really wanted to do. I put my real goal on the back burner while I chased someone else’s dream. 

Once I finally got out of the telecom deal and back to what I really wanted to do, I actually made more money while I worked less. And, of course, I had more fun.

Point: Follow your plan! If someone else’s plan aligns with yours, great. Otherwise, stick to what you care about and walk away from others. 

2. Thinking too Small

I received my PhD and completed a consulting gig about the same time in late 1999. I was sitting around wondering what to do next. Now with PhD on my resume (I know – resumes are worthless), I went out looking for the same kind of corporate gig I had done before. And this was after having done an entrepreneur venture and doing a PhD. As I interviewed for the same old kind of job, I found I was not warmly received. The CEO of one company told me I wanted more money than he made. I felt for the first time that I was being told I was overqualified.

But I did not feel overqualified. In fact, I felt under-qualified. So I asked a friend who had played the PhD game what he suggested I should do. He helped me land an interview with Adtran. I walked into the door and in the “waiting room” for interviewees they had a folder for each person being interviewed. I saw folders for design engineering positions, and I thought I was one of them.

Then the lady behind the counter asked for my name. She then treated me differently. She pulled a folder from the back and handed it to me and escorted me to my first interview. Before the interview got started, I saw that I was interviewing for Chief Staff Scientist. What? I did not even realize what that was. Soon it became obvious it was not the typical interview.

It took me some time over the day to even realize that I was qualified for such a title. It was a real emotional struggle because I was thinking too small.

What I have learned: Small is all about thinking! You become what you think about. So quit thinking small.

3. Lack of Clarity

I mean clarity as to what I want, what I care about, and how I want to impact others. How much time have I wasted on lack of clarity. I wish I could say I have solved this, but no. A lack of clarity has been part of the blame for me chasing other’s dreams. It has also has caused me to stay in places I should not stay.

What I learned (am learning): Clarity cannot be overrated. You need to have some idea of what matters and where you want to go. You do not have to have all the answers, but the direction is critical.

 

4. Over Planning and Under Executing

It is common for me to meet with someone who has wonderful plans, but I know they will never take action. I know it too well because I have often been guilty of this myself. I love to plan and think. I can have coffee every morning and plan out what to do next. I can generate 50 new ideas. But execution is very different. This too still plagues me. But today I tend to take action faster and plan less.

What I learned (am learning): Execution is everything. 

 

5. Getting Off Course by Changing Winds

Every time I read a new book or attend a seminar I get caught up in the new stuff. I go back and reinvent what I have already started. So, instead of moving forward, I continue fixing what is not broken. I have written my goals in 14 different ways – all starting over and all arriving to the exact same conclusion. New methods do not create new realities – they just steal your time from implementing the dream.

What I learned (am learning): Just because someone says something new and interesting does not mean you need to leap. Listen, learn, and stick to your plan. Keep moving forward. 

 

Question: What kind of mistakes have you made? And, how did you overcome them? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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