A common saying that people use to sound clever is that “it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes than it is to learn from your own”. Too true.
If someone launched a similar business to the one you’re contemplating and couldn’t make a go of it, I’d be learning as much as I could about their experience before launching my own version.
While it’s always wise to learn from other people’s disasters, it’s even more critical to learn from your own mistakes.
At the very least, you don’t need to go hunting for those lessons. They’re right in front of you if you are prepared to look.
With 2012 rapidly (and scarily) drawing to a close, I think it should be everyone’s priority to take some time and learn their own lessons from the last 12 months.
Too often people start preparing for next year and think that in doing so they are being really strategic. They set goals and targets and design tactics and programs.
It all seems very MBA-ish.
What is commonly missed is the quiet reflection on the year that was. What were the big mistakes? What were the little mistakes? What were the combinations of little mistakes that morphed into a big one?
I think that in today’s world of obsessive positivity and the mantra of self-help, people are reluctant to look at themselves and their businesses honestly and critically.
It can be painful. No-one wants to re-live faults and errors. No-one wants to concede to themselves that events – and themselves – are less than perfect.
Now, I don’t want to get on a rant (too late!), but I also think that things like Twitter don ‘t help, either. We live in an age of next, next, next.
Keep moving. What’s fresh? What’s the latest? What is everyone else doing, saying, thinking?
What’s the first thought to pop into your head? Say it! Tweet it! Post it!
I’ll tell you what I’m going to be doing when December gets solidly into double digits.
I’m going to be sitting down at my desk and spending a few hours really thinking about what my lessons for 2012 are.
I’m not just going to spend a moment reflecting on my lessons while waiting in a queue for a coffee or sitting in traffic.
I’m going to make it a formal process. I’m also going to write my lessons down.
It reminds me of that old Buddhist proverb: The teacher appears when the student is ready to learn.
As 2012 draws to a close, I’m certainly ready to learn from my mistakes and hopefully not repeat them in 2013.