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How to learn from past mistakes

How to learn from past mistakes

Anyone who’s ever succeeded in business knows that it doesn’t happen without a lot of failures along the way. The secret to lasting success is to treat each mistake as a learning experience that helps you and your business to grow. Here are some tips.


1.    Take responsibility

Every business is different and comes with its own challenges. Even if it isn’t the first time you’ve been your own boss, you are relying on your own judgement to predict the outcomes of things that will never be completely under your control.

It all starts with being able to accept responsibility. When you assign blame to others by default, you are missing a valuable learning opportunity. Did you miss a delivery because a supplier let you down or because you chose the cheapest supplier? Remember that your mistakes are the only mistakes you have direct control over – and you can control how much you improve in the future.

2.    Don’t use mistakes as an excuse for inaction

A key to success when working for yourself is to accept that without risks, there can be no reward. Fear of making mistakes is one of the biggest reasons many people are hesitant about starting a business of their own.

Always try to avoid getting emotionally attached to the outcome. Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen, while keeping your sights on the rewards that wait for you if things do go according to plan.

3.    Plan, analyse and re-plan

Good preparation, such as having a risk management plan, can prevent mistakes and misjudgements before they occur. It can also help ensure you can properly manage mistakes and minimise their impact on the business.

It is also always a good idea to integrate the learning process into your business processes. At the end of each project or customer engagement, try to allocate time to sit down with your team and have an open discussion about what could have been done better. Accept criticism and use it as a learning opportunity, rather than taking it personally.

You can use the outcomes of these reviews to modify and enhance your existing plans and processes, so that the same mistakes don’t happen again.

4.    Keep things in perspective and seek support

As frustrating as business mistakes can be, they are never worth losing your health over. Always try to keep things in perspective, and if you are experiencing undue stress, connect with your support networks, talk things over with a friend or seek professional help. If possible, temporarily hand the day-to-day running of the business over to a partner, so you have time to relax and reflect.

As much as we would like every day to go smoothly, mistakes are unavoidable if we want to enjoy real business success down the road. When you learn from your mistakes, you learn to embrace them.

Lots of mistakes happen simply because you might have been unaware of a risk ahead of time. Find out how to identify business risks so you can head them off before they become a problem.

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