The Smart Lemming Rules of Life and Career Management: #13 Always be Course Correcting


We’ve all done it. We make missteps in our jobs or career.

You fail to learn from your mistakes, unaware as you go about your job, failing to see the circumstances or events that consistently cause you problems, repeating the same mistake by talking over boss in one-on-one meetings, using the auto-sum feature in Excel when you should be typing in the calculation, or making assumptions when you should be asking for clarification.

Perhaps you’re too stubborn to admit mistakes, refusing to think that you could make a simple error, in denial that your skills, knowledge or experience lacks the depth required for the task or project.

For example, when I was a Product Manager, I drove my boss crazy by always making assumptions, acting like a mind reader who knew her motives, directives, and expectations of a project that she never conveyed to me, mistakenly reading into the intentions of her executive colleagues’ actions, letting fear get the best of me, worrying that their actions to cut costs were in response to a recession.

It took me months to learn not to make assumptions, but only after my boss constantly pointed out to me when I was making assumptions. Finally, it became a habit to ask a set of questions that helped me determine the scope of work of a project or the motives of an action plan.

Action Items

How can you effectively learn from your mistakes? By using this simple three step process:

  1. Learn to make changes “in context“: Learn to respond to a mistake in the making. After you recognize the tell-tale signs of a mistake, ask yourself, “Has this happened before?” or “Does this feel familiar?” Learn to think through your previous mistakes and their consequences.
  2. Identify scenarios: Quickly identify scenarios to fix the problem, as if applying a cost-benefit analysis to the problem, trying to determine the best scenario that minimizes any damage to your vested interest in the situation, factoring in any negative effects on others such as your coworkers, boss, or department.
  3. Find the best course of action: Choose the best course of action, by applying your lessons learned or wisdom from past mistakes, but taking responsibility for the mistake.

Course correction in context or in the moment takes practice. Set aside your stubbornness or pride by being open to constructive criticism that benefits your current job performance and career.


The Smart Lemming Rules of Life and Career Management series outlines my rules of personal and work success. After reflecting on my personal values, I made this list, realizing values are my rules of being or life management principles. Based on your experiences, I hope this list inspires you to identify your own rules. Here are the rules to my success that may help you over the course of your journey:


Level 1: Rules for Our Fundamental Nature

Level 2: Rules of Continuous Learning and Modeling

Level 3: Rules for the Actual Journey

Level 4: Rules of Adapting to Environment and Interacting with Others

Level 5: Rules of Humility

Level 6: Rule of Being

  • #21 Be compassionate.