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.
How can you effectively learn from your mistakes? By using this simple three step process:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- The Smart Lemming Rules of Life and Career Management
- The Smart Lemming Rules of Life and Career Management: Overview of the Pyramid and Its Levels
Level 1: Rules for Our Fundamental Nature
- #1 Find your own spirituality and practice it.
- #2 Know what you want or the Universe (or God) won’t know what to send you: If you don’t know what you want, how can you get to where you want to be?
- #3 Fate or free will? Regardless of what you believe, we all have a purpose to being here. The tricky part is discovering what it is.
- #4 Don’t wait for your future to happen to you, you have to be vigilant in making your future happen.
- #5 Understand your dark side, but don’t give into it or indulge it.
- #6 Aspire to always help and teach others.
Level 2: Rules of Continuous Learning and Modeling
- #7 Watch or read media sources when you need inspiration. Reflect on why you like a certain movie or TV show, so you understand why it moves you.
- #8 Always be learning. Continue learning through books or any source that gives you new ideas on how to approach your work or feeds your passion.
- #9 Become self aware. If you aren’t, then how will you know you’re screwing up?
- #10 Accept responsibility and make peace with your decisions and the consequences of those decisions. They have created the person you are today. The trick is, do you like what you’ve created? If not, then how can you change?
- #11 Keep a lid on chaos. Never let situations or emotions get away from you. Be the calm in the eye of the storm as strength, reflecting confidence for the most vulnerable people in your life.
Level 3: Rules for the Actual Journey
- #12 Stay still and don’t move if you feel lost, so you can find yourself or let the opportunity find you.
- #13 Always be course correcting.
- #14 Surround yourself with trusted and loyal friends. Be prepared to deal with betrayal without ambivalence. But be prepare to forgive (if the person is sincere, I mean really sincere).
- #15 Learn to channel your inner extrovert, if you’re an introvert. Learn to channel your inner introvert, if you’re an extrovert.
Level 4: Rules of Adapting to Environment and Interacting with Others
- #16 Make peace with your weaknesses. We’re not perfect. Even your strengths will turn into weaknesses. The trick is knowing when your strength has become a weakness.
- #17 Master your emotions and body language. Use them strategically in life and work.
- #18 Mentor yourself via the Space Time Continuum. What would your future self tell your present self? How can you get back on track? What have you done well? What more can you do? What would you tell yourself as a child, teen, 20 or 30 something?
Level 5: Rules of Humility
- #19 Never take your success for granted. Always prepare for the worst case scenarios. Be prepared for two steps forward and one step back.
- #20 Be humble. Treat others well, don’t be arrogant, and don’t drink your own Kool-Aid.
Level 6: Rule of Being
- #21 Be compassionate.