Become Successful – Make Mistakes

 In TCM Post

One of the primary traits of successful people is their ability to respond well to mistakes; correct and learn from them, and march forward.

It’s a cliché to say that you should “smash through barriers.” Mistakes can be barriers, and this isn’t just a cliché it should be your Modus Operandi (MO). It’s how successful people operate on a daily basis. Mistakes are battle scars, not fatal war-ending injuries or death.

Life and Career Lessons come in many forms:

  • Mistakes
  • Success
  • Failure
  • Miscue
  • Wrong Decision
  • Right Decision
  • Reward
  • Punishment

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” – Albert Einstein

The Bad with the Good
Both happen to everyone all the time. I will detail some of the mistakes I made creating this blog in a later article. Take notes. THINK about why your effort did not result in your expectation. Maybe your approach was wrong. Try a different approach. Perhaps it was a bad day at the office for your boss. Try your proposal again another day. Don’t let one adverse event define your entire career. Don’t let a series of adverse events define you at all. Stay positive and keep working. Turn the negative into a positive by understanding, refining, and applying the lesson.

Learn to overcome your mistakes and not fear them, and you will be successful in IT. Errors are inherent to life. I’ve met some brilliant people in IT, and they make mistakes too… they’re called bugs. We find them, analyze them, correct them, test them, and move on. Learn to do the same in your professional career and personal life. A squeaky door hinge is an installation or maintenance failure. Do you stop opening the door? No, you identify the root-cause of the squeak and put some oil on it or drive a 3″ nail through the hinge into the stud to pull the door up or down into alignment.

But I Can’t!
From time to time I’ve had questions about personal, mental, or health barriers and folks struggling with these items in pursuit of success. If you are one of these folks, STOP. They are just excuses. I don’t need reasons or excuses (problems), I need solutions. You can find many examples across all walks of life of people that had seemingly insurmountable odds that they defeated on their way to success. Don’t make excuses. Use them as challenges to overcome, and they will make you stronger. Here are a few great examples:

Let’s Backup for a Minute
I had a systems administrator who was working with an important client. He was responsible for upgrading their software. The environment and applications were manageable and straightforward. He forgot to make a backup. While updating the server, he lost all of the clients’ data. This action was a fire-able offense but in my opinion, not for a junior systems administrator. So we used it as a lesson. From that point forward he was fully aware of process and procedure, knowing that you can’t skip it even for the most seemingly basic tasks. If he hadn’t made this mistake early in his career, I would have some degree of fear that he might do it later in his career when he’s responsible for Exchange Mail database backups for an entire organization. Much larger impact. I kept him because he owned the mistake and I knew he’d never make it again.

The reason we fear mistakes is because we fear the repercussions of that mistake. Then we tense up and make bad decisions, and make a mistake anyway. Then we hide from the error. Which is a mistake!!! What you should do first is recognize then fix the error. Most likely these are in an IT environment that cause an outage or end-user impact that you should resolve quickly. After you settle the issue – Confront the mistake head-on and OWN it. Write up a brief paragraph of what happened, how you identified and resolved it, and what procedures you put in place that will ensure you won’t make the same mistake again. Then hand this write-up to your boss. Writing post-mortems is what I did all the time. I confronted my mistakes head-on and quickly moved past them. No problem!

If You’re Not in School Anymore – An Aside
I find that people just out of school freak out about the format of a document they need to produce. Do you recall Jim’s problem with the “run-down” in the TV series The Office? What the heck is a run down? Can you give me an example? He freaks out and can’t even get started because he thinks it’s some gold-plated, professionally formatted, State of the Union Address. The easiest way to start, for me, is a simple email, or Word document. I also like to use Excel if the data and formatting benefit from the application, but the underlying construct is this: a List.

The List is the Nexus of the Universe
Start drafting your “report” in the form of a list. A simple bulleted-list of notes or ideas that pop into your head. Then expand. After several drafts, I may realize the bulleted-list could benefit from the formatting of Word or the data structure of Excel. Many times my “outage reports” were merely concise summary emails primarily consisting of a bulleted list. If the issues were systemic or high-level executive priority, then I’d use a Word document, expanding upon the list where necessary. Many of my internal, team-only documents were Excel because both the team and I could sort and filter the data, making adjustments. The bottom line is that nobody is going to grade your formatting or use of punctuation or spelling. As a manager, I need content, and valuable information in it’s most straightforward, easy to digest form. That’s it.

Apply It
So how do we apply this analysis and reporting to mistakes? Go back to the top of the article and confront and own the mistake. Then correct it. We use it as a lesson to grow stronger and smarter. I have a habit of doing this in an analytical, methodical way. Go back to habits. If you have a habit of owning your mistakes, and analyzing and learning from them, you are going to be a stronger IT professional. As a manager, when I get valuable information in an easy to read format addressing a mistake you made, it’s a huge plus on your employee evaluation.

So don’t fear or worry about mistakes. Make addressing, fixing, and learning from mistakes a good habit.

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