Here’s a short parable that can easily be applied to our professional lives…

A wise man spoke to an audience, telling them a joke.
Everyone laughed like crazy.
After another moment, he told the same joke again.
This time less people laughed.
He cracked the same joke again & again.
When there was no laughter in the crowd,
he smiled & said :
“You can’t laugh at the same joke again & again
But why do you keep crying over the same thing over & over again?”

One might wonder how this can also apply to our professional lives, but with a little thought and consideration, it becomes quite clear. Most people would agree that owning a business or having a position in management is a series of successes and mistakes, some of which have greater impact than others. I, like many other business owners used to let the mistakes get to me more than I should have, even to the point of holding on to them and letting them diminish the joy that came with a future success.

The longer I was in business the more mistakes I made and for some reason, I kept a mental record of them, using them to temper the feelings of success that came my way when I did experience a positive outcome or achieved some goal.  Over time that list grew to the point where it eventually outweighed any success I might experience. I hit my low point when I realized that I didn’t want to try to accomplish anything. I called it burnout, but the truth of the matter was I had defeated myself with my own thoughts.

Once I admitted the truth to myself I was able to see clearly that I had become my own worst enemy. It was at that point in time that I started taking the steps to eliminate that self-defeating habit. As a result I started feeling excited about my work again and once again I had hope for a future that would be unencumbered by the past

From my experience you can clearly see how this habit eventually beats a person down until they become paralyzed into a state of non-action. This happens in much the same way as if we were allowing our personal mistakes and tragedies to become the fabric of our personality. How can we change this habit so it no longer stands in our way of success?

We do it by looking closely at the”mistakes” we made in our professional life with the intent of identifying the point at which we got off track from achieving our desired outcome. Once we identify the action or decision that caused the error, we can look at it objectively and brainstorm new ways to approach the situation in the future.

Maybe the plan, if there was one at all, was put together hastily or we failed to consider outside factors that could influence the outcome. If there wasn’t a plan then we know it’s time we start planning our future instead of flying by the seat of our pants. Regardless of the error(s), once they are identified the adjustments can be made and we can get back on track and moving forward. While we all enjoy the successful implementation of any plan, the confidence we get when we attain success, in spite of unexpected hurdles, is even sweeter and with it comes a boost in our confidence because we know we have the ability to put a plan in motion and not let it get derailed along the way.

Here’s another way to think of it, which comes from something I read over the years:  Most of us are aware of the fact that our country has technology that allows our guided missiles to hit a target, with amazing accuracy, that is thousands of miles away. I think we can all agree that the men and women who developed this technology are some of the most intelligent people on the face of the Earth. Consider the fact that while that missile is on its path towards the target it does not follow a straight line from point A to point B. As a matter of fact it is constantly veering off track many throughout its flight. In order to reach its target with such accuracy the systems inside the missile receive feedback when it begins going off course. In response to that information the navigational system makes corrections that put it back on track, right up to the millisecond before it reaches its target. If there was no feedback from the various systems we wouldn’t be able to expect the missile to come close to reaching its objective.

The ability to make those corrections was designed into the navigational systems because the designers knew that it would be impossible for the missile to hit its target without them.  Let’s put it in perspective, some of the most intelligent people are not able to create a system that doesn’t make mistakes and they are still obtain a successful outcome because they were aware that mistakes would be made and they anticipated and planned for ways to address them.

Our enemies wouldn’t have much to worry about if we terminated the flight of every missile simply because it got off track would they? So why give up on your goals and projects because you encountered a hurdle, or even worse, give up before you get started because you got off course in the past? The successful person, team, and organization is successful because they anticipate and plan for mistake and hurdles then use those lessons as building blocks for future endeavors.

If we want to live a balanced life and/or achieve success in our professional life, we have to begin by becoming aware of the feedback we are receiving and be willing to make the necessary adjustments once we get the feedback. We cannot expect success if we don’t quit thinking of mistakes as failures and instead realize that they were nothing more than corrections along the way. Given that mindset it’s impossible for those “mistakes” to have a negative impact on you, unless you let them. They will no longer be a hindrance to your future behavior and they lose and power they had to paralyze you through the fear of failure or condemnation. As a matter of fact, they become powerful allies in your path to even greater personal and professional success.