I love hearing agent feedback about episodes of The Adaptive Agency.
An agent in Florida recently shared generous feedback about a previous article: A Hidden Christmas Gem For Leaders.
So I asked her what she’d like me to cover in a future episode. Here’s what she said:
“The ‘why’ behind the ‘why.’
- Why do we need to meet with customers (as leaders)?
- Why do words matter?
- Why does office culture matter?
- Why do we need to remind ourselves of the things we do well and do them again?
- Why is failure the biggest/best lesson?
- Why is it ok to accept help or guidance or coaching?
- Why celebrate with the team?
- Why do we need to be generous with our team?
- Why do we need to make time to keep sharpening our toolbox?
- Why is it ok to be vulnerable in front of our team?”
I’m sure these were off the top of her head. She’s obviously thinking deep thoughts about her business all the time. Today I’ll address two of them.
1. “Why is failure the biggest/best lesson?”
What a powerful insight.
So much has been said about it that it’s almost an axiom. Yet we still have a strange relationship with failure: we respect and value our past failures, but we dread the one that’s coming soon.
So let’s take failure apart and see why failure is not only negative but something we should aim for.
All learning looks like “failure.”
If you’re learning how to juggle, I can tell because there will be tennis balls all over the ground. If you’re learning to ride a bicycle, it’s obvious because you keep falling over. If you’re learning to cook? Smoke in the kitchen.
Learning looks like a zig-zaggy line that trends upward.
The low points all look like “failures.” Of course, they’re not, any more than the high points are discrete successes. It’s the average that needs to be trending upward.
And so the problem with “failure” is one of timeframes.
If you think short-term, successes and failures seem random and disconnected. But if you think sufficiently long-term, they’re just data points on the way to a new ability.
“Fail Faster” = “Learn Faster”
Consider this statement:
“If you try to learn faster, you’ll encounter failures faster.”
Now flip it:
“If you want to learn faster, fail faster.”
Yes, you can fail faster. And not just because you’re waiting for inevitable failures, but because you set yourself up to plow through failures on purpose.
People who accomplish great things force themselves into the failure realm more than people who don’t. Michael Jordan, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein are a few obvious examples. But guess who fails more often than anyone else?
Scientists. People who do experiments.
An experiment starts with a hypothesis: “If A, then B.” Even if the hypothesis is right, it might take a lot of experiments with small adjustments to prove it. And each “failed experiment” provides insights that fuel the next one. So how do you prove your hypothesis faster?
Business is no different.
If you want to accomplish something new, you can run one big experiment, fail, and give up, or you can run a whole bunch of small experiments all the time. You’ll get a wide array of results. Here are some of the results:
- small wins
- occasional home runs
- deep insights that give you profound competitive advantages
And here’s another benefit: when something fails, you’ll quit doing it. But when something succeeds, you’ll make it part of how you do business. Which means now you’re stacking wins on top of each other at the same time as you’re surgically removing things that hurt the growth of the operation.
This is way better than following the status quo or copying what everybody else is doing.
2. Why is it ok to accept help or guidance or coaching?
Getting coached or mentored shortens your learning curve.
There are people who already know things that we don’t know yet. And if we can learn it from those folks, we might shave years off of the process.
If that’s not true, here are some things that have no value and should never be paid for:
- medical advice
- self-improvement books and seminars
- how-to videos
- marriage counseling
- risk management and retirement planning
All of those can be learned through personal experience and study, given enough time. But that’s the issue, isn’t it? Time.
Getting a mentor or coach is one of the best things you can do. Getting 5 of them from different disciplines is even better. Paying for them is a good idea and will produce a high ROI.
But you can also have virtual mentors—mentors who don’t even know they’re mentoring you. And you can change them up as often as you outgrow them. Here are a few examples:
- Colleagues and bosses
- LinkedIn influencers
- Authors who are subject-matter experts
- Anyone who will dispense expert advice in exchange for lunch
Rather than take 2 years to figure out some challenge in life or business, find out who’s already solved that problem and how. Then copy them.
And pay it forward.
There are others who need what you’re learning. In fact, people who are two years behind you in your journey need you more than they need anyone else. Likewise, you can help them better than you can help anyone else.