Tom Watson Sr. was the guiding hand in the success of IBM for forty years. He knew the risks associated with business and the value of learning from mistakes. One year a young executive was given responsibility for a project that cost over $10 million. As it turned out, the idea failed, and when the young man was called in, he offered his resignation.
“You can’t be serious,” said Watson. “We’ve just spent $10 million education you!”
When Thomas Edison was trying to invent the electric light, he made thousands of “mistakes” before he had any success. The discovery of rubber vulcanization was made by accident. Gail Borden made countless business blunders before achieving success with condensed milk. Levi Strauss made the mistake of selling his entire supply of dry goods, leaving him with only canvas to make pants from. Milton Hershey failed more than once in the candy making business before finding success with the Hershey bar.
Almost every enterprise has experienced its share of mistakes. Mistakes are a tool of learning. Although repeating mistakes is foolish, a legitimate try that turns sour should be accepted as part of the process moving forward to a better idea. Those who adhere to the old adage, “If you are not making mistakes, you are not making progress” are frequently the persons who make the biggest advancements in business. We have a natural tendency to avoid trial and error, and often find risk-taking to be unsettling. Yet, it is those who take calculated risks who reap the benefits. As Edward J. Phelps so aptly stated, “The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.”
I have made mistakes, tons of them; but is a mistake really a mistake? Or is it a question of how you respond accordingly. In hindsight, when I left Westin Hotels, people thought I made a career mistake! but I went on to make a great career with Sheraton Hotels! When I left Sheraton many thought it was a mistake, but i made my mark in the Tourism business with Jetset & Toureast, in fact gaining more international exposure and man-mangement experience than ever before.
When I left the hospitality and tourism business, and went into the Edutainment business, people looked at it as my biggest mistake. This included my father. Today, I am earning far more than I could have in the hospitality business, whilst working much less and having more time with family etc.
Consider this: Are you so afraid of making mistakes that you are shielding yourself from success? We made a supposed mistake in investing in a property in the 80′s, which we sold evntually in the 2008 for 800k + profit without counting significant monthly rental income along the way. I could go on and on, and yes there were mistakes that hurt, both pride and money but determine to learn from it. We can become wiser from them, we can become stronger, the choice is always ‘ours’.
Mistakes will always be made, learn from them and become a better person.