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Those are the two most important words when it comes to making mistakes.
It’s too easy to dwell on the past and feel bad about messing up. We tend to beat ourselves up for making a mistake, but there’s zero profitability in dwelling in the past and doing that.
The number one goal is to prevent this same problem from occurring in the future. Assess the situation: what went wrong? Focus on the WHAT not the WHY. It doesn’t matter why you made the mistake. Focus on what you did that produced the undesired results and implement processes to prevent the same problem from happening again.
Notice that I said SAME problem. You’re always going to make mistakes. The idea is to make NEW mistakes. Don’t ever make the same mistake twice.
In this episode, we also talk about taking the empowering “future focus” mindset and applying it to delegation. When you operate this way, you can allow others to make mistakes in your stead.
You need to adopt this “future focus” mindset before you make your next mistake. This episode will certainly be helpful for getting past a recent mistake you just made, but it’s even more valuable for the future.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- You won’t learn from other peoples’ mistakes without intentionally looking to learn.
- When someone else makes a mistake on your behalf, remember that you would have forgiven yourself and moved on.
- When you make a mistake, establish a process and follow the process in the future.
- Always make new mistakes.
- Evaluate the mistake. Don’t beat yourself up or dwell in the past.
- Your past mistakes don’t define you or your worth.
- Failure is part of the process and only an end to your story if you quit.
- Failures are hurdles on the way to success. Keep going.
- When you encounter failure, squeeze the one productive thing you can get out of it: avoiding similar failures.
- Don’t live in the past. Have a future focus.
- 02:51 Sean: I’m interested in the philosophical question about whether or not you can learn from other people’s mistakes. It seems obvious to say, “We all learn from other peoples’ mistakes,” but is it just head knowledge? Everyone wants to believe that they can.
- 03:39 Ben: It depends. It might be an obvious thing. Once upon a time, there were two dudes standing at the edge of a cliff. Nobody knew anything about gravity, so they weren’t afraid of heights. They looked over the side and saw a beautiful canyon, so they decided to go to the other side. The first one steps out and immediately falls to his death. I can’t imagine that the second man thought, “Oh, he fell to his death. I wonder if I should step out and see if the same things happens to me?” When something is very obviously a mistake and you’re very obviously going to meet catastrophe if you go in that direction, that would be enough to teach you not to do it.
- 04:35 Sean: What do you think, Aaron? Can you learn from other peoples’ mistakes?
- 04:38 Aaron: I think you can. An example that comes to mind is the automotive industry. Somebody designs something wrong and a car blows up—they’re going to learn from those mistakes. Someone’s going to go back and look at that.
You won’t learn from other peoples’ mistakes without intentionality.
- 04:59 Ben: That’s also pretty obvious. There’s a part that’s been identified as the thing that caused the car to blow up, so everyone says, “We obviously can’t put that part in our car anymore.” I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. Maybe they think it was that part, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was the combination or the order in which that part was included, and the other people think, “That’s not going to happen to us like it happened to them, because our cars are different.”
- 05:42 Sean: I want to believe that I can learn from other peoples’ mistakes, but I also know that the best learned lessons I had were from making mistakes myself. I wonder if some of us, most of us, need to make a mistake to convert the head knowledge into experiential knowledge, to internalize and truly learn a lesson. I don’t want to believe that’s the case, but I’m leaning toward thinking that is the case.
- 06:16 Ben: Thad said something in the chat room that I like. He said, “You have to take on their mistake. Unless you were involved in the buildup, the process that lead to that mistake, it’s hard to get a full understanding.” He’s saying that all you see is the mistake. If they talk about some of the things that lead up to that mistake, you might be able to understand it a little bit more, but you’re never going to get inside their head and their experience, the circumstances leading up to it, to have a full understanding of what actually lead to that mistake.
Learning From Your Own Mistakes
- 07:06 Sean: Aaron, how do you learn from your own mistakes? When you’re dissecting something that happened, what is your tendency?
- 07:20 Aaron: I’m thinking about how I used to deal with mistakes vs. how I deal with mistakes now. Some kind of mistake would happen, and let’s use the Mind Palace as an analogy. You go into this room where this mistake is, and then I would stay in that room and think about it, beat myself up about it over and over and over again indefinitely. Sometimes, I would do this for a long, long time. Now, I have a process where once I’ve identified that there was a mistake, something I don’t want to repeat in the future because I don’t want that similar outcome, I identify what the mistake was and I think about it. I identify the steps that lead me to make that mistake, and then I write down what I want to do differently next time, which is an important step for me. The writing process cleans the slate like a fresh start. It’s an unloading of the burden of beating myself up about the mistake that I made.
- 08:23 Sean: I like what Rebecca says here, “Pain is a catalyst for change. If there’s no pain, the learning of the lesson won’t be as significant or go as deep. I think that’s why learning from others’ mistakes would not be as huge a lesson than what you learn from your own pain.” That makes sense to me.
- 08:43 Ben: Aaron said that he would go into that room and sit with the mistake indefinitely. I’m not a scientist and I don’t fully understand the way the brain works, but from what I have read and studied, when someone thinks about something over and over, that path gets stronger. When you experience pain, suffering, or some traumatic event or failure, it’s a healthy thing for the brain to relive that situation and walk through it again. It’s the brain’s way of trying to understand it better, so it knows what to look for next time to avoid that mistake. That’s something you get when you go through a mistake yourself. You don’t get that same automatic thing happening when somebody else shares their mistake. You don’t live it the way they did, so you don’t get all those other details.
- 09:52 Sean: Among the people I’m close to, I’m known for putting a strong emphasis on future focus. I talk about this a lot with Laci, my wife, as well as people on the team. I’ve noticed a tendency in a lot of people to focus on the past. They focus on what went wrong and what they could have done, how they feel, and why they may be a bad person. It goes on and on from there, and it just spirals. It’s a downward spiral into despair, and nothing productive comes from that. When I look at a mistake, I’m looking for how to get something out of it that’s productive. The only way to do that is to look forward and focus there. Say, “What can we do to prevent this from happening?”
- 10:53 I don’t even go so far as to indulge in wondering, “What did I do? What could I have done to make this not happen?” It happened. It’s all about future focus. How can we prevent this from happening in the future? In a moment, we’re going to get into letting other people make mistakes in your stead, which is something an employer has to deal with, but this could be on a family level, a friend level, or a parental level.
Letting Others Make Mistakes For You
- 11:32 A lot of times, it reflects on you. When someone is acting on your behalf, that affects your reputation. Not everyone knows what’s going on behind the scenes. If they’re doing something that has your face on it, people associate any mistake with you. We tend to forgive ourselves quickly, in general, more quickly than we forgive others for making mistakes in our stead. All we think about is, “I know what went wrong. I could have prevented it.” In reality, we make mistakes, and we forgive ourselves and move on. We’re quick to point out that other people shouldn’t have made this mistake and we feel like we could have done it better.
When someone else makes a mistake on your behalf, remember that you would have forgiven yourself and moved on.
- 12:30 You just don’t remember that, because you had control over it. When it comes to delegating to people and having other people do things for you and make mistakes for you, I’ve learned to forgive quickly. I assume they’re making a mistake on my behalf that I would have made. I assume that was a mistake that I made, and I would forgive myself, so I forgive them super quick. Then it’s a matter of preventing this in the future. Let’s implement processes and make sure we have systems and responses ready for what we do if this happens in the future. I’ve had to keep people from focusing on the past, because they tend to feel bad. “I made a mistake. I messed up. I cost the company this. I did this damage. I feel bad. I knew I shouldn’t have done this. I wasn’t thinking.” Don’t worry about that. Future focus.
- 13:24 Ben: When it comes to parenting, there are so many parallels here. When my kid makes a mistake, a lot of times they’re doing something they’ve seen me demonstrate in some way. It’s so easy to be blind to that fact in the moment and to feel frustrated. I think employees have a similar response to children. There’s this fear in there that it compromises their position or their worth in the organization. For a child, they fear that it compromises their worth to the family or the parent. It’s important to cut that off as soon as possible. That’s why the forgiveness piece is really important. When I’ve bypassed forgiveness and gone directly to the lesson, to the future focus, my child can’t see that.
- 14:36 They can’t have that lesson, because they’re still concerning themselves with the identity part of it. I disagree with Sean a little bit on the past focus, in the sense that there’s a story there, the story of how you got to the point of making the mistake. If their identity is secure, then it’s safe to go back and relive that story so they can better understand what happened and apply those lessons ot the future.
Look back at your mistake from the understanding that your position and identity are not compromised.
- 15:25 Sean: It’s a matter of focus, the word and definition of focus. We do have to process the event. We have to process it objectively and figure out what went wrong to prevent it, but we should not focus on it. That seems to be the tendency for a lot of people—to focus on the past. They dwell there, live there, and they aren’t secure in their identity. It’s a circular thing, because the reason they focus back and dwell in the past is because they’re insecure in their identity, but the reason they’re insecure in their identity is because they dwell and focus on the past.
- 16:08 Ben: That’s why it’s so important to deal with that first. Say, “I saw that you made a mistake, and before we talk about it, I want you to know that this doesn’t change anything about how I feel about you,” or, “This doesn’t change anything about how meaningful you are to this organization or how much I appreciate having you as an employee.” The mistake doesn’t have anything to do with those things. Drive that lesson home.
- 16:38 Sean: Where the parallels end between employees and kids is, with kids, there’s an obligation. You have to raise your kids. You can’t just leave them somewhere. With a business, you have to be very objective. Yes, people make mistakes, but don’t make the same mistake twice. Make a mistake, establish a process, and follow the process in the future—make new mistakes. Cory, Aaron, you can make mistakes all day long, but they better be new mistakes. If they’re not improving, if they’re making the same mistake over and over, they’re not listening, learning, or being a good employee. I would be a foolish business owner to continue letting someone make the same mistake over and over. With a kid, you have to think differently. A kid is going to make the same mistakes, and you have to love them. As a business owner, you have to be a little bit more objective.
- 17:47 Ben: I don’t have a ton of experience working with employees, but I would be willing to take some time to investigate why that lesson is not sinking in. Say, we put a process in place, and the mistake happens again. Maybe the method we tried to implement doesn’t work for this personality type. The more I understand those things, the easier it will be for me to put processes in place for future employees, to seek understanding of their personalities and to know how best to lead and manage them.
- 18:39 Aaron: This is really important. If you’re an employer, you have an employee, and they made a mistake and you tried to address it but it keeps happening, like Sean said, that’s a problem. If you’re an employee like me and you make a mistake twice, that’s not your employer’s problem. It’s your problem.
If you want to be a good employee, make it your problem to understand your mistake and address it.
- 19:09 Ben: I agree with that. There’s definitely responsibility on the part of the employee. In the spirit of letting others make mistakes for you, it’s an incredible learning opportunity. Don’t let it go on indefinitely, obviously, but find the balance and don’t be so objective that you cut something off before you could have really gotten value out of that experience. This assumes it wasn’t affecting your bottom line so much that the lesson was worthless. Experientially, I don’t know what that looks like, but I have a feeling that it’s beneficial for the employer to see that through for at least a few more repetitions to better understand what’s going on there and see why the mistake keeps happening even when the process is implemented.
- 20:08 Sean: Objectively, you don’t want a mistake to keep repeating itself. Does that mean that if Cory makes a mistake a second time, he’s fired instantly? Cory, have you made mistakes? What happens? How do we operate and handle those?
Dealing With Mistakes
- 20:27 Cory: I love how Sean handles mistakes, because when he says “future focused,” he doesn’t just mean, “Let’s look to the future and not make that again.” He finds out what the mistake was, and there are processes and systems put in place to avoid it. It goes through two sets of eyes, etc. There are so many systems now that it’s ridiculous. When we first started shooting seanwes tv, I didn’t even use a timer. I shoot on DSLRs, and they only shoot for 30 minutes. We were shooting a really long episode, and we lost the end of the footage. We didn’t know until the next day or so, but from then on, Sean said, “Cory, I want you to put a timer on for 30 minutes.” We have so many systems. I think we are making new mistakes, though that’s not good either.
- 21:19 Sean: No, it is! When Cory mentioned that, I realized that I had forgotten about that. With very few exceptions, Cory is always making new mistakes. We all forget things sometimes. If you’re being careless, that’s different. I know that Cory cares. There have been times when things have gone out without certain information. Not many people know this, but we lost an entire seven day shoot because of a memory card, and that was brutal. We were hurting for a buffer. That was in December, and we’re still not quite back. There are a lot of factors. It’s hard to do a seven day shoot.
- 22:25 It’s hard to make up for a lost shoot and still stay on. Stuff like that is brutal, but we came up with a new process. A memory card left the house. Number one, part of the new process is that we need all of the memory cards here. If Cory needs cards for another shoot, he uses separate cards. Also, every time a shoot is done, we back it up on the network drive. Even if he’s not going to edit it today, there’s instantly another copy. When something happens, we say, “Breathe. We lost a seven day shoot. What happened?”
When someone makes a mistake, we break it down, find the hole, and implement a process.
- 23:06 This is where the breakdown was. This is where things went wrong. Okay, before we get to that point, now every time we’re done, the card goes in and we back up to the network drive before anything else can possibly happen. We’re constantly implementing new processes. There’s nothing else productive that can come from dwelling on this event and feeling bad about it, except for preventing it from happening in the future.
- 23:32 Aaron: One other possible upside is that now you have something that Cory could talk about and teach to someone else, a lesson. “Hey guys, don’t make this mistake that I made. Here’s what you do.”
- 23:50 Sean: Cory Miller in the chat says, “Speaking of mistakes, that one time I unsubscribed nearly 20,000 people from the seanwes list.” Cory’s very responsible. He’s a great person to work with. He’s always learning from his mistakes and we’re always implementing new processes. We’ve all made mistakes, and it’s okay. It’s about how you operate from then on. You can’t dwell in the past.
- 24:30 Ben: When I talk about the story telling thing, it can’t come from thinking about this as your worth or your significance. We just want to better understand what happened so we can make progress.
- 24:53 Sean: I don’t like going through the whole story of why I did this. The reason is because I would rather preempt and prevent mistakes with a process. If we’re focusing on, “This person tapped me on the shoulder while I was in the middle of rendering, there was a phone call…” That’s a great story, but that doesn’t really help us. You can’t say, “Next time I get tapped on the shoulder, I’ll try to remember not to do that.” That’s not really productive. A process would look like this—when you’re rendering, close the door and tell anyone who could possibly talk to you that you’re in Do Not Disturb mode until 20 minutes later.
- 25:41 Ben: The story, the details Sean mentioned about someone tapping you on the shoulder and you going off to do something, those details all point to a pretty obvious solution. That’s where I think the details can be helpful—they can give you insight as to what your solution should be. I think Sean and I are saying the same thing.
- 26:15 Sean: I think we’re on the same page. The words I’ve used are “past focused” and “dwelling on the past,” and I think we really do agree.
You have to look at the event, but don’t stay there and beat yourself up.
- 26:31 Cory: The story is necessary, because that’s where you find the details, but it’s not necessary to explain why. Just look at what happened.
Your Mistakes Aren’t Your Identity
- 26:58 Sean: Aaron was saying that he wanted to talk about the thought process that happens after a mistake. The tendency is to get stuck in an infinite loop. Aaron said that a mistake doesn’t have to be a part of your identity.
- 27:15 Aaron: I used to do front-end web development, and I was working at an agency. I was trying to build out a responsive theme, and anyone who’s ever done that understands that it’s kind of a challenge. I was new to it, so I was doing my best and trying my hardest. I went into a meeting one day, and my supervisor basically said, “I checked out the code you’ve written, and this isn’t professional code.” That was really frustrating and depressing for me. I could see why he said that, but it felt like a personal attack.
- 27:52 Sean: Did he say more than that, or was it just that?
- 27:54 Aaron: That was it.
- 27:55 Sean: That’s terrible. That’s like if I went to Cory and said, “Cory, this is not professional video.” That’s not productive! What is not professional? Help me out.
- 28:08 Aaron: I’m trying my best, but I need more than that. I need some feedback. I needed to know what I did wrong and what the process was. I don’t hold it against him, because I know that he was under a lot of stress, but the impact of that phrase, “This is not professional code,” has stuck with me since. I fought with it for a long, long time. Talk about depressing. Every time I sat down with a code editor, I got this echo in the back of my head, “This is not professional code.”
Your past mistakes don’t define you or your worth.
- 29:01 Just because Cory has lost a week of seanwes tv episodes does not mean that he’s not a fantastic video guy. If you’re anything like me, there are probably still a couple events in your past that have shaped how you think about yourself. Think about it, write about it, and come up with a plan to move forward. The way Sean handles this stuff is the best out of anyone I’ve met in my entire life, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s never, “You made this mistake.” There’s never a personal attack to it. If I made a mistake, it’s not about me. It’s about what went wrong and what the process going forward is, future focus. It’s about what we’re going to do next time to make sure you improve and do a better job. It’s not about being mad at Aaron for a while. Sean doesn’t care about that at all. He just cares about getting better moving forward.
Mistakes & Failures
- 30:19 Sean: What do you guys think about Steve’s question, “What’s the difference between a mistake and a failure?”
- 30:25 Aaron: I know what I said, “A mistake happens. Failures don’t exist.”
- 30:45 Sean: Everybody makes mistakes. I have a similar relationship to mistakes as I do to failure. We’ve had episodes on failure, and I don’t think failure exists, because failure is a part of the road to success. There are bumps and hurdles in the road, and you don’t get to success without experiencing a bunch of failures. There’s no perfectly smooth, paved road to success. It’s all these bumps along the way. Some of those bumps stop people. They run into a hurdle and they say, “I guess this is where the road ends.” For me, it’s just a relentless drive forward. I know where I’m going, so get out of the way, hurdle! It knocked me down, but I’m getting back up. I’m going to keep going until I see the results.
Failure is a part of the process, and it’s only an end to your story if you quit.
- 31:44 I refuse to quit. I don’t acknowledge failure. Mistakes, to me, are part of the process. Where are we going? We’re going forward. We don’t want any more mistakes, so let’s implement processes.
- 32:02 Aaron: Cory is now a better video guy because he’s made mistakes. Now he knows which mistakes not to make. If someone hires him and pays him $20,000 to go shoot something, he’s not going to make those mistakes on that shoot. 20 years from now, he’s going to have made so many mistakes that he’s no longer making any mistakes.
- 32:26 Sean: They’re all new mistakes.
- 32:34 Ben Flack says, “Are there some mistakes that you should just ride out vs. some where you should take immediate corrective actions? What are some principles around that? (I’m most interested in applying this to client work.)” We’ve talked about clients and professionalism, and last night, I got a new book idea. Aaron and I were talking. I’d had this one before, but it came back to me, and I hadn’t written it down. I want to write a book called Responsibility sometime in the future. Originally, it was about client work and how you as the professional are responsible. Whatever problems occur or mistakes happen, things novices blame on the client, you take ownership and responsibility for.
Taking responsibility is scary at first, but eventually, it’s empowering.
- 33:28 That’s how I approach life, taking responsibility. Someone said in passing how they had a friend who worked in the food industry, and the food industry made them miserable. I said, “No it didn’t. Nothing makes you anything. You choose how you respond to something.” My brother, Ryan, has one of the greatest mindsets that I know. He operates from a position of responsibility. He wakes up in the morning and he says, “I am going to speak nothing but positivity today. I’m not going to say a single word that is not positive today. I’m going to encourage people.” This guy gets crap thrown at him all day. He doesn’t have a perfect life, so he’s not happy because everything goes well for him.
- 34:20 No, he’s happy because that’s his outlook, his choice. He’s taking responsibility for the way he responds to the world. He doesn’t react. Everyone’s reacting and blaming the trigger. You’re responsible for your response. I took issue with this statement about the food industry, that that’s just the way it is. That’s what every industry wants to do—whether you’re an artist, a designer, a developer, an actor, an actress, someone in construction, everyone wants to say, “That’s just how the industry is. That’s just how it is for designers, people want you to push pixels around. That’s how it is for actresses, they tell us to do free work because it’s the only way up.” Everyone wants to be in isolation and say, “Woe is me. I have it so bad. If only it was as good as your industry.”
- 35:14 There are problems in every industry. There are all kinds of problems, but we aren’t going to make progress anywhere if we’re blaming the system. There is a way to disrupt this stuff. There is a way to not be miserable in a situation that’s not fun, in a place where people are saying unkind things to you, where the hours are long. You can say, “This thing made me,” but at the end of the day, you have responsibility.
- 35:50 Ben: I think about the person who says that they want to succeed and do these great, amazing things, in whatever industry, but secretly, they’re afraid of going after that success, failing, and what that says about who they are. The conventions of an industry and being able to point to something else as the problem is a great way to take the focus off yourself as the reason things aren’t happening. We have to be aware that that’s going on and be intentional about fighting it.
By default, we have a tendency to blame others because of all the things we’re afraid of.
- 36:49 Sean: It would be scary to go into the food industry and try and disrupt things. This is the kind of response you get, “How can you try and do this in this industry? This is the way it is. You have to work 15 hour days. If you want to go into management or you want to be a chef, you have to do this. You have to work weekends. You have to be cut-throat.” There are all sorts of things you “have to do” in every single industry. What would happen if you pushed against the system, if you focused so much on yourself, you personal responsibility, your development, and you became a person that everyone wanted to work with? You walk in the room like Matt, and everyone loves you, because you’re Matt.
- 37:40 Matt is charismatic. He talks to you and cares about you, and he’s your friend. People want to work with Matt. There’s no question as to why he’s successful. Be a person everyone wants to work with. Go into a place and say, “These are my terms. I’m going to show up for eight hours a day. I’m going to give you the best eight hours you ever got. You don’t want it? Have a nice day.” Go to the next restaurant. Show them your track record, your reviews. Show them that you’re the best person they’ve ever worked with, and the only reason you had to leave was because they decided they wanted to close down the restaurant and take a vacation or something.
- 38:32 That’s the only reason you left, because you’re the best person ever. You go somewhere and they say, “Wow, I want to work with you. We’ve never done it any other way, but we’re going to do it this way because we want to work with you.” I’ve seen this time and time again. People say, “It’s a government client. It’s Net 90 pay.” It’s not Net 90 for Sean. It’s Net Now. It’s Net Yesterday. If you want to work with me, pay me. I’m not going to wait for that. Everyone says, “This is how it is,” but I said no. I don’t care what strings they have to pull. Maybe the accounting department had to pay me out of their personal accounts. I don’t care. If you want to work with me, this is how I work.
- 39:13 First of all, you have to be a person of integrity. Focus on yourself and your own responsibility. Be someone people want to work with. Go into a place like that, and people will bend the rules. They will change the system to work with you because they want you. It doesn’t matter how a system is, because you always have responsibility. When you’re not taking ownership of that, it sounds scary and you don’t want it, because it’s easier to blame. When you do embrace it, it’s so empowering. No one ever looks super deep. They look at someone successful and say, “Oh, they’re successful. Must have worked out well for them. I experience failures.” Every single person experiences failure after failure.
- 40:06 Seth Godin had something like 30, 60, maybe in the hundreds of book rejections from publishers. Do you have what it takes? You haven’t even shown up for 200 days, let alone gotten 200 rejections. Steve Jobs, or anyone you think is successful, has pushed past failure and just ignored it. They don’t care about mistakes. They’re just learning from them. It’s all about future focus for them.
The world will bend all of the rules to accommodate you if you focus on yourself, your personal development, responsibility, and being a person people want to work with.
Share Mistakes Publicly
- 41:16 Robert says, “What are some good ways to ensure that you really learn from your mistakes? I find that writing about it helps. Public writing (writing a blogpost/case study, giving a talk, teaching a course) helps even more.” I find that to be true as well. It’s always better to write than not write. If it’s something you don’t want to share, you could keep it private, and it’s still beneficial. I was telling Aaron last night that I want everything to be a podcast, because any time I write or put something out there, you see how much value other people get out of it. I want it all to be public for other people to learn from.
- 42:11 Aaron: You know why that’s effective? Once you talk about it publicly, it becomes part of your story. You internalize it. It’s no longer a skeleton in your closet, but now it’s part of who you are. Now you know what to do differently when faced with a similar situation.
- 42:15 Sean: You’re airing it out to dry. When you keep it inside, it becomes a part of your identity. No one else ever sees it and says, “That’s ridiculous, man. You’re a great writer. You’re a great developer. You write awesome code, Aaron.” No one ever gets to see that because you didn’t put it out there. It doesn’t become a part of your story that other people can relate to. My boss told me that I don’t write professional code, but now I see Aaron in public sharing how he got over this. Maybe I’m looking in the backlog, five years in the past, and I see where Aaron is now and I’m encouraged by that.
- 43:19 Ben: It’s not just the benefits to you, but it’s the benefits to other people who get to hear that story. We come back to this question, “Are they going to learn the lesson just from hearing your story?” They get to see a little bit more of that experience than they would if they were only aware of your failure.
- 43:40 Sean: I was way off. Seth Godin had 800 rejections in one year. People don’t dwell on that. They don’t think about that. They look at Seth Godin and how successful he is, and they think, “He’s successful because he’s Seth Godin. His book is successful because his last book is successful because he’s Seth Godin.” “No, I heard he had 800 rejections in a year.” “Wow, that’s crazy. He’s Seth Godin.”
- 44:35 Aaron: He knew that, after the 800th, he would get one accepted. There’s no struggle there.
- 44:43 Sean: It’s one thing for me to say, “Alright guys, I’m prescribing you 800 rejections. Go for it. When you get to the 801st, it’s all going to be downhill.” He didn’t know that.
- 44:57 Aaron: He probably thought he would be fine after 50. “Alright, the first 50 will probably get rejected, but after that…”
Make New Mistakes
- 45:12 Ryan says, “Should you worry about making too many mistakes as you work, or just focus on doing the work and making sure you don’t make the same mistakes twice?” Making new mistakes is all that matters. I’ve talked about my struggles with delegation and Superhero Syndrome in the past couple years, and I’ve come full circle. I delegate all the things now, and I love it. I am so excited for people to make new mistakes. They come to me thinking, “Oh gosh, what’s Sean going to say?” To me, we just patched a hole in our process. I’m also excited that they’re not coming back to me with the same mistake. Go make new mistakes!
- 46:07 Ben: Allison said in the chat that she wanted to hear more mistake/fail stories from us. I’m excited, because one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made so far is not finishing a course, a podcasting course. That was a mistake. I’m also excited because I’m going to finish it this year, and there are going to be all kinds of new mistakes I’m going to make with that. I’m excited about that, because that means that I’m learning new things. I’m learning how to make a course. Thankfully, I have you guys to help me, Sean especially. Because I’m trying something new, I know there will be mistakes, and that’s what I’m excited about.
- 46:49 Sean: I’ve made so many mistakes. The problem is, I don’t look back and see failures, because they don’t exist to me.
Failures are hurdles on the way to success.
- 47:04 Every success you see and every success I see when I look back was ridden with failures leading up to it. I don’t have these big “this was a failure” moments. People look back and think, “Oh man, my big failure.” It’s this big huge thing in their past that’s immediately obvious. I don’t have those, because I push past everything. If I think about the mistakes, there are all kinds of mistakes. With my first business, I didn’t hire fast enough. With my second business, I started a partnership when I should have been the one running the business. With Learn Lettering, I let my email list go cold, and I sent five emails five days before the launch to a list of people who had been signing up for six months, and it still did great, but that was a mistake.
- 47:50 Aaron: How long did it take you to realize that was a mistake?
- 47:53 Sean: Not long after the launch.
- 47:55 Aaron: So, right away, you thought, “Oh, I should have done that.”
- 47:58 Sean: Yeah, because I’m constantly learning. I’m seeing what other people are doing, and I think, “I didn’t do that.” It was a short sight. I started my email list in 2013. I didn’t know anything about email marketing whatsoever. The guide on my site who got 200,000 views in a year, that’s it. They were just views. I didn’t have a sign up box. Everyone else is complaining, “Oh no, only 30 people visit my site a day and I’m only getting one subscriber a day.” That’s a lot more than I was getting. You’re complaining because you don’t get enough right now—how about 200,000 in a year where you didn’t even know what an email list was? That was a mistake.
- 48:48 Then, I hired too fast. I had to learn that was a mistake from other people at the retreat we talked about. There’s a lot. I still think that I’m actively making the mistake of not exercising. I started to do it, and I was diligent. I was waking up early to go running, but I broke my toe a few days after I started this new regimen. The toe is still black, but it doesn’t hurt anymore, so I’m going to try and start that back up. I think that’s a mistake, not focusing on health.
- 49:30 Aaron: People want to know what the mistakes are that you’ve made that were a trip and fall, flat on your face, smack, Sean’s out? There aren’t any, because you won’t ever find us laying down, because we’re going to get back up every single time. We’ll get back up and keep moving, because that’s what we do.
- 50:08 Sean: Cory, can you think of any obvious failures for me, that you’ve seen? I work the most with Cory. He’s usually in the same room, and we work in here all day.
- 50:27 Cory: I don’t know if Sean promised The Overlap Technique book a certain year, but he’s been saying that it’s coming, and some people were expecting that. He pointed it out and didn’t try to put it under a rug. He told people, and he followed up with a new commitment.
- 50:48 Sean: I messed up several times on that. I said, “Yeah, I’m going to write this book,” and then I wrote it, it got pushed to the back burner, and then I started over. I had to shelf it to focus on paid things. I said, “I’m going to launch it in 2015,” and that didn’t happen at all. I said that I’m writing three books in July, and the first one is Overlap. I had tweeted publicly last year that I would publish three books in 2016. After talking to a guy who’s going to help me with the editing, marketing, printing, self-publishing stuff, we came to a six month time frame from the writing, which would put it in January of 2017. I don’t think it’s wise to push it. Traditional publishing is more like two years, and with self publishing, six months is pretty decent.
- 51:54 That’s especially true if we’re trying to do three books. He was thinking that rather than do it all at once, we could do January, February, and March, where you can focus on each book and each theme and give an option for people to purchase the whole collection in advance. I don’t think it’s wise to compress that and have the end product suffer to barely make it from January to December 2016. I’m pretty sure, based on his advice, that that commitment is going to be off. That’s a mistake too—too hastily committing to something where I didn’t have experience in timelines.
- 52:39 Ben: That’s a great lesson, though. Maybe you make that mistake several times before you understand what the lesson is there, but the lesson is, “If I’m going to make a commitment like that, I need to really understand what I’m getting into so I’ve earned the ability to make that commitment.”
Share Failures With Solutions
- 53:05 Sean: Christopher says, “Following the idea of sharing your mistakes, is it a good idea to publicly share your failures until you have successes, a silver lining, or a solution? Your first impression of someone could be this article or presentation, so shouldn’t it end on a high note?” Tell me if you disagree, if you think you should share a failure in the middle of it, but to me it would be like publishing a blog post that’s a third written. A failure, to me, isn’t the end of the story, so I don’t have a story for you yet.
- 53:42 Aaron: 100% on that. You need to give it time to let it bake.
- 53:49 Ben: That’s a great way to think about it, too. A lot of people experience that mistake or that failure, and they think it’s the end of that storyline, but there’s more to the story.
- 54:02 Sean: A lot of people treat it that way. They try and be glamorous about it. They say, “I messed up. This was a failure. All the other stories you hear are about how people messed up and it turned into something great, but this time, I just messed up and it sucks.” They try and be all edgy and cool, but I don’t think that’s productive. You could have turned that energy into something else. Failure is an energy, and energy never goes away. It only changes forms. Turn it into something productive! Make a story out of it! Don’t cut it off and make a dead end there. Then it is wasted.
- 54:45 Ben: If there is a necessity for communicating with your audience because of the way the failure is affecting things happening with your brand, it’s okay to tell the story up to the point and to have a “to be continued.” Let them know that this isn’t the end of the story.
- 55:14 Aaron: This is where the future focus comes in handy. If you’re not thinking about next steps or how you’re going to move forward from this, you can’t say, “Here’s what’s going to happen next.” It’s the difference between going to your employer and saying, “I made a mistake. Sorry,” and, “I made a mistake. Here’s what happened. Here’s what I’m going to do differently next time.”
Deal With Emotions First
- 55:41 Sean: Robert said, “How do you stay focused (in the moment) and not jump into analysis mode too quickly? I guess what I’m trying to ask is: How do you ‘remove the backspace key’ from your approach to business?” For those that don’t know, in my Supercharge Your Writing workshop, I talked about how, when you write, you should not edit. You need to focus on writing and getting words on the paper, and the analogy I used was to “remove the backspace key from your keyboard.” You can’t backspace. It’s forward focused. You edit later. That’s what Robert is talking about here. How do you remove the backspace key from your approach to business?
- 56:23 Ben: On my way over here, I was thinking about helping children work through mistakes, particularly when they’ve done something wrong. There’s some frustration on the part of the parent, and the kid feels sad and upset that it happened. One of the thoughts I had was that it’s so important to deal with the emotional impact of that experience first, because your emotional and intellectual baseline is what you need to be your most creative, ingenuitive self. When you experience something like that, all of that takes a dip. If you don’t work through those emotions and get back to a place where you’re even, you’re making it more difficult for yourself to analyze the problem objectively, see it for what it is, and to be creative about the solutions you come up with.
- 57:32 Aaron: Marinda said, “I believe we can share failures publicly once we’ve taken the time to deal with the emotional part of the experience first. Then we can focus on the lesson and teach others. We don’t have to wait until everything works out, because it might not ever go as you plan, but don’t share something when it’s still raw.”
- 58:00 Sean: It would be interesting to hear how someone’s experience is going through this episode with a very raw failure. For other people, I think this is a very valuable lesson when you’re not in the middle of a failure. It’s all about preempting how you process and respond to failures. If I could have you remember two words, it would be future focus.
When you encounter failure, get everything productive out of it that you can so you can have future focus.