Tips from the Trenches: Learning from Mistakes

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Most business experts believe that if you don’t fail, it means you’re not pushing yourself hard enough or taking enough risks. Thomas Edison said this about failure: “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” He saw mistakes as a step toward to a solution.

In this “Tips from the Trenches” post, some experts share some of the mistakes that they’ve made, and what they’ve learned from them.

@marketingprofs — Ann Handley

Early on in my career: Getting to be best buddies with people I was supervising. Until I had to let one of them go. THAT was a lesson. I work to keep better boundaries with folks who report to me by acting more like a resource for them, and not just a pal.

This is also a reason why it can be tricky promoting someone within a team to become the manager. It’s difficult to transition from colleague to boss.

@journalistics — Jeremy Porter

I quit my first job with no regard for relationships. Never burn bridges. All your relationships should be for the long haul.

We’ve all been in situations that left us seething, and let our primitive fight-or-flight response take over. You never know who you will encounter again. Even if you don’t meet them again, those people might talk about your burning bridges to future prospects. Word of mouth is powerful and spreads fast.

@BridgetForney — Bridget Forney

Not everyone is a teacher. Find the ones who are willing to guide you and listen carefully.

We sometimes land in situations where we report to people who teach us nothing new, or don’t have good management skills. Rather than drifting along until that next job or gig, do what you can to keep learning and receiving guidance so you can be ready for the next step.

@rupertmike — Mike Rupert

No one will give you anything unless you ask, take or make for yourself. I waited too long for instructions.

If you find yourself sitting there, go do something. This is your opportunity to show initiative.

@JGoldsborough — Justin Goldsborough

There’s never just one answer or one perspective.

You could do the same two projects for two different companies and work them in very different ways because of the people involved.

@stoweboyd — Stowe Boyd

I worked several times for people I thought were crazy or dumb before I took a job, yet I went ahead and took it anyway. It turned out to be true every time leading to wasted years. Never again.

Many folks rely on gut instincts often because they turn out to be right. So if you get a gut feeling about new projects, clients and other situations, pay heed. I had a bad feeling about a prospective client, so I checked in with a colleague who had worked with her. It turned out those feelings were on target, so I passed on the gig.

@cheeky_geeky — Mark D. Drapeau

Not allowing my entrepreneurial spirit to come out early enough. (Of course, I’m still young!)

Mark provides a classic example of “hindsight is 20/20.” All you can do is the best you can with what you have. Pushing yourself, however, could help you discover uncharted waters.

What mistakes have you made and what did you learn from them?