Great leaders publicly take responsibility for failures within their organization. They should, after all – a mistake slipped through the cracks of a structure that they were responsible for building, sealing and fortifying. While an architect or carpenter actually built the castle, it came from an idea or plan the king or queen envisioned. Many failures in construction stem from failures in design. Brick and mortar analogy aside, leaders may not directly cause mistakes – but they are accountable. Even with a perfect plan or structure in place, failure within remains a failure within. Something could have been done by someone to prevent it. Most people cannot handle or admit to their own mistakes. But someone needs to. Someone needs to flag a mistake and help everyone learn from it. Not by blame or pointing fingers, but by throwing themselves under a bus to show everyone that humility can solve problems and teach lessons. Those of us who know we actually made the mistake will walk out the door with a shred of guilt and a valuable learning experience.
Money isn’t everything. Time, knowledge, happiness, autonomy, geography and output are all currencies that can be measured and prioritized in different ways. When job hunting, you look at more than just the salary – how much time you’ll get to spend with your kids, how far away it is, how much you’ll be able to learn and grow, what autonomy you’ll have and what you’ll be able to build. Sometimes, money is the most important and necessary thing to you. Other times, you might be willing to make a salary sacrifice to learn something specific or work closer to a place you call home. What matters most to you now? How does that affect your decisions? I find it useful to rank the currencies that matter at this moment. Do you need time more than money now? Do you want social outings more than the number of books read? Do you want a job that constantly teaches you new things or do you want an easy commute? Write it all out. Prioritize your life and make important decisions accordingly.
Remember when you were a kid and did not understand physics, money or pain? You could do anything your imagination projected. What happened to that? Education and the real world taught us rules that, more than anything else, outlined what we could not do. Right before I learned how infeasible it is to produce a full length motion picture, I produced a full length motion picture. I haven’t produced another since. What happened? I got lost in the limitations of what other people outlined as challenges. I got lost in the limitations of reality. Forget reality. Dream big, believe big and do big – or go home.
For most of us, school held our hand through learning. Adults expected us to show up, study and graduate. I cannot speak for you, but the structure of institutional learning failed to inspire me to pursue learning beyond the walls. Some teachers made a difference and instilled within me the value of lifelong learning – but the curriculum never asked for it. For shame. I’ve worked very hard post-college to open books, study new things and apply learning on my own. Many things self-taught have made me considerably more competitive in the job market, comfortable with business and well-rounded as person. Sound good?
The single biggest piece of advice I have for anyone looking to better themselves: expose yourself to activities, culture and people you do not yet know or understand. Do things you’ve never done. Try things without a second thought. No prejudices. No fear. You really did not have a say in what you learned growing up – why be picky now? Wipe away those inhibitions and get back to your education! Mix it up, kick-start the brain. Live, learn and love life.
We all have a lot to learn from elders. Even from a young age, I embraced relationships with older people. Many peers accused me of sucking up to adults, but they missed the point entirely. I enjoyed the company and exposure to the experiences of older people. By engaging with adults, I picked up on a lot of necessary skills, knowledge and behavior that continue to help me in social and professional circles. Sure, relationships with mentors help personalize education and augment exposure to curriculum outside the mainstream. Sure, relationships with babysitters and supervisors help reinforce a level of trust that enables freedoms most subservients fail to earn. I developed relationships with superiors that accelerated my success and opened doors otherwise unbeknownst to me. To this day, I embrace and pursue relationships with people – regardless of age. Young or old, it doesn’t matter. The older you get, the less age matters. Age only matters with liquor and cheese.
Long term, second place can pay off in spades. I see second place more as a second chance than a loss. Watching someone else cross the finish line ahead can empower you with the drive to improve and an insight into the victor’s foundational success strategy. Knowledge and motivation in hand, you have the key ingredients to better yourself against the competition.
On several occasions, I’ve had the pleasure of following the first in line. I was the second graduating class of my high school, so I watched an entire group of kids go through the ropes before me (always being an upperclassman definitely had its perks). We had the opportunity to fix their mistakes and build on their accomplishments. It was a great deal.
I’ve seen companies beat my ideas to the market. A sad day turns happy when you start to find all the flaws in their approach and the opportunity to perform differently or better. You can refocus your efforts and take more informed strategic bets in the space. Also a great deal.
No, you did not cross the finish line first this time. I’m sorry. But next time, you can win the race and break records in brilliant form. All great athletes lose every once in a while. If they didn’t, they would get bored with winning and have no room to grow. Growth is important. A challenge is a great thing. Competition makes the world go round.
I took a class in college on motion picture distribution. I learned a lot and revered my teacher. Over the last 6 months, developments in the industry continue to undermine almost everything I learned.
Times change. Popular opinion changes. Our understanding of the world and universe changes. New replaces the old. Technology can flip everything upside down. The game changes all the time.
While education is instrumental in shaping your understanding of the world around you, be wary of taking everything taught as fact. By all means – take to heart advice from teachers who have lived through their industries and subjects. But I encourage you to heed their teachings as advice, not gospel. Fact can become fiction overnight. With the future so uncertain, it’s fair to take everything with a grain of salt.
To make a difference and truly change things, you must be prepared to do things differently than those before you – not listen to your teachers all the time. Let your education provide you with the tools and creative constraints to propel your vision forward. Follow your passion and embrace your rebellious instincts to break the rules and undo what has already been done.
Contemporary academia leaves little to no room for error. With grades and tuition on the line, failure is not acceptable. We were all raised to think this way, perhaps the single greatest fault of contemporary education. Individuals deeply ingrained in the academic world have even less tolerance for failure. You cannot genuinely innovate when you need to ask permission for everything or need to meet a rubric. We need to have freedom – permission to make mistakes – before we can truly change the world.
Seth Godin calls this ‘guts’ – a trait far more admirable than perfectionism or a no-tolerance policy. We can all respect high batting averages; we cannot always respect the methods behind high batting averages. At the end of the day, we pay more attention to home runs than high batting averages anyway. To hit home runs? Swing with everything you’ve got – even at the risk of missing the ball. You may lose the game if you miss, but you cannot win unless you swing.
Man up and admit you messed up before things get worse. You definitely walk a fine line between giving up too early and giving up too late. Either way, it’s imperative that you anticipate failure. Bring it up as soon as things start turning sour. Addressing your anticipation with others will hurt you less than failure itself; if anything, it may help you minimize casualties or possibly keep the train on the tracks. Identifying and debriefing failure is the key to learning from mistakes and sharing your education with others.
Most dreamers are too caught up in the pursuit to appreciate the impact their dreaming has on other people. It’s one thing to chase your dreams; it’s a whole other animal to inspire others to chase theirs. Don’t keep your dreams locked in the basement. Share them with the world. By living and sharing your dreams openly, you offer followers a cognitive and spiritual boost of confidence. If you can do it, so can they. Help everyone who listens to you understand that.
Don’t just dream for yourself. Dream for people who respect you. Dream for the world.