Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Learn with a short memory

Yesterday I received an email from a teammate who had made a mistake. It was by no means a fatal error, and one that was very, very easily corrected. The reason this email became the backdrop for today's entry, was because of the emotions and patterns of behaviour it represented... ones that we see played out all too often.

One of our recent additions (who is a great addition by the way) had felt she was having an off day and it affected my training session. After re-iterating that my heart rate still got to 184 at one point (98% of my max. HR), I realized it wasn't the performance but her perception of the performance - that was the issue.

The fact is, good people often beat themselves up and are way too hard on themselves after they make mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, because we are not perfect. If the sun failed to rise one morning, we could all justifiably freak out, because the precedent thus far is 100% of the time - the sun rises in the morning. When people make mistakes, however, it's part of life and learning.

While it is important to take personal responsibility for our mistakes at a high level, and while we must learn from our mistakes at the expense of repeating them - we can't hold onto mistakes that we make. In hockey if the goaltender lets one goal bother him, likely a second goal will follow (probably easier to save than the first, too!)

In pressure situations, and in positions that require us to perform - mistakes offer us an opportunity to improve if we own them (not blame others) and we adjust our performance based on knowledge of how we could have done better.

After that, those who are truly successful are those who have the confidence to risk again un-jaded by the fact that they have made mistakes in the past. In fact, the person who hired me for my current position once said that as the manager of the company, they made more mistakes than anyone else in the company. As the general manager of our company, I am now inclined to feel very much the same way.

Own your mistakes, only make them once, and forget that you made the mistake as you remember the lesson that mistake brought you.

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