Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Savvy - Taking a More Optimistic View of Error
"Mistakes are the portals of discovery."
- James Joyce
Many of Us Have Embarrassing Memories of Adolescence
It was a time of seemingly unforgiveable blunders as we struggled to come to terms with the adult world, as our hormones raged and our ‘cute kid get out card’ mysteriously expired.
In some ways, starting a business recalls that adolescent learning curve. Most business owners can recite cautionary tales of horrendous howlers and lessons learned during that exciting but torrid time:
- Like the product designer who delivered something radically different to what the client requested, thinking they’d like it better… until they stopped taking his calls. He learnt that ‘the customer is always right’.
- Or the wedding photographer whose first assignment required so much time in the dark room that she was effectively working below minimum wage. She can tell you all about time management.
- Or the website designer whose client got so worked up about a slightly incorrect email address that stayed on their website for six months, costing who knows how many business enquiries? He’s now a stickler for proof reading (and professional indemnity insurance).
Of course, lessons like these are freely available all over the internet and business bookstores – but mistakes teach them better. In fact, the biggest mistake of all might be to concentrate on avoiding mistakes. As they say in poker, ‘scared money don’t make no money.’
In Other Words, Never Stop Trying Things
For all its awkwardness, adolescence was a time of fast growth, mind-blowing discoveries and a real awareness of the possibilities of life.
Similarly, for all the pain those early business lessons caused, they also instilled a positive legacy of good practice. Arianna Huffington’s mother apparently once told her, “Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a stepping stone to success.”
It’s natural to want to want to leave earlier struggles behind. But we need to be careful it doesn’t stop us taking the kind of risks that got us started in the first place.
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