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Loss of a legend. Lessons learned from Tom Petty

Yes, we lost another legend. Being born in the 70's, I am not sure how much more of this I can handle, or what music I will listen to. In the wake of Tom Petty, there are some lessons we can learn and apply to our everyday.

"Take what you can, all you can carry. Take what you can and leave the past behind." These lyrics come from the song All You Can Carry and remind us to focus on the present and do the best you can. If you have experienced failure, here are 8 tips to learn from your mistake and move on:

1. Admit, rather than deny. The first thing to do after you’ve made a mistake is own up to it. Denial only increases the chances you’ll repeat the error. Foster a culture of openness, honesty, and responsibility at your place of business by setting an example with your own behavior.

2. Determine why the mistake happened. When something goes awry, ask questions designed to pinpoint its cause.

Did I:

  • have unrealistic expectations about could be achieved?

  • base decisions on incorrect assumptions?

  • execute improperly after making the right decision?

  • adequately prepare to take action?

The goal in asking these and related questions is to better understand your thought process. Retracing your actions, step by step, enables you to identify any flaws in your thinking and eliminate them from your decision making process.

3. Take an outsider’s perspective. Sometimes it’s hard to look objectively at your own actions, but when reviewing mistakes, try taking the perspective of someone outside your business. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your decision-making process as if you were analyzing that of a colleague or competitor. An honest analysis opens you up to using different strategies going forward.

4. Don’t try to be perfect. Some mistakes may arise from the idea that every aspect of your business — and the processes behind it — must be “perfect.” Forget perfection, both from yourself and your staff, because achieving it is impossible.

5. See whether bad habits contribute to mistakes. Are you always rushing from one thing to the next? Do your attempts at multitasking result in more errors in judgment rather than fewer? Are you losing focus and not paying attention at critical moments? All of the above can lead to mistakes on the job.

6. Learn from others. There’s a lot to gain from examining the mistakes that your co-workers have made. Search the web for case studies, blog posts, and articles related to the type of error you made. Have candid conversations with peers in your network. You’ll often find that others have been in a situation similar to yours, and their solutions can spark constructive thinking on your part.

7. Apply what you learn. After doing some research, rigorous self-analysis, and/or consulting with a mentor or friend, you should have a pretty good idea of what went wrong and why. Now you have valuable information to use the next time your company faces an important decision (including, in some cases, the advantage of knowing what not to do).From there, try changing the way you address problems as they come up.

Depending on the circumstances, take an alternate approach to the solution. If the issue is complicated, work to resolve one aspect of it at a time, rather than tackling the entire problem all at once. Experiment with strategies you’ve uncovered from research or conversation with others. Remember, the most successful professionals make plenty of mistakes before achieving greatness.

8. Move on! It’s possible to become obsessed with your mistakes (which is a mistake in itself). Adopt a more realistic attitude: Acknowledge that mistakes are still possible down the road, but you now have the ability to learn something from them. The new knowledge you acquire makes you stronger, more resilient, and less inclined to make the same mistake twice. As Tom sang,

"I got just one life in a world that keeps on pushin' me around. But I stand my ground and I won't back down."

I could go on and on applying Tom's lyrics to business. Here is another quote from Petty that shows his insight of what the future can hold.

"You will never be told when the next bit of education is coming or where it's coming from or who the teacher will be. That information will only reveal itself after the fact. All that you can do is leave a little room there for the next lesson to come through. Someone will be carrying it. You just leave the door open a crack."

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