“What would yo have done differently?” is a question often asked by those wanting to unlock some hidden ’secret’ to success. Normally posed to people who have attained significant success (whatever it is). Sometimes we asked ourselves the same questions as we reflect.
As much as there is nothing wrong with the question there is also a lot wrong with it. The assumption is generally that the answers shared can help us avoid mistakes others have made. It might be helpful to know others’ mistake. Note I said, “might”.
It is not enough knowing the mistakes that others have made unless we follow through with action to avoid them. Growing leaders (this includes the accomplished who haven’t settled) must learn to collect on others’ ‘dumb tax’. Study other leaders; their successes and failures and remember that knowing of their mistakes is not enough to help you avoid them.
As you ask, “What would you have done differently?” you must keep in mind that those you ask the question will overlook other factors. Not intentionally. The thing is, the successful usually have other environmental factors they either overlooked or were oblivious to.
That being said, you also have your unique set of circumstance and you cannot just superimpose success solely based on what you get as response of the question. You can learn from others but that learning must be taken to make part of your own equation of success.
The other thing to note is that as much as we and those we ask can do something differently if they had to “do it all over”, is that if they didn’t make the mistakes they made, they would’ve made different ones.
Mistake and challenge free endeavours are a myth [Click to Tweet]
As you lead yourself and others, you will make mistakes. Some will cost more than others. Some will destroy everything you’ve built and others will only leave a scratch. You will make mistakes.
Obsessing over not making mistakes is like a germophobe searching for his germ / bacteria utopia. As long as you attempt anything collateral damage of different forms is inevitable.
Mistakes and failures are inevitable. Learn as much as you can to avoid ones others and yourself have made, but don’t think that will make you immune to them. It makes you wiser, not immune. Don’t stop creating, leading and learning.
What you must be striving for as a growing leader is not making the same mistakes.