Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The best way to make mistakes- "Fail faster"

I think one of the questions that you will always get an answer in Affirmative, when asked is- "Have you ever made a mistake ?". I believe till the time human race exists the answer to this question will always be "Yes". On the contrary, one of the more significant questions is- "What do you do when a mistake is made ?" or "How do you react to mistakes ?" or "What are the thoughts that run through your mind after you make a mistake ?". Answers to this questions largely depend upon myriad of factors such as one's social orientation, the education system which always teaches or rather prompt us to be "correct" or "perfect" always or sometimes the value system-which sees you in bad light on making mistakes.
The rule in learning something new is quite simple- You cannot learn to walk without falling down. You cannot learn to swim without accidentally slipping your head inside water. You cannot learn to ride a bicycle without falling down and hurting self.
Our present life is largely as a result of choices we make. So, after making a mistake one can either choose to criticize self and become overly cautious and defensive for rest of the life or one can safely ignore the mistake and live in the world of illusion as if nothing happened or one can move on and take the positives out of mistakes and learn from them.
I have been reading through a some stuff over the past few months and have observed some striking similarities in the thinking of successful people in how they dealt with their failures. Here are few instances-

Source# 1- http://www.rediff.com/getahead/2009/mar/12starting-a-business-on-your-own.htm

This article is about Anand Chhatpar who is the CEO of BrainReactions, which is in the business of identifying new opportunities for entrepreneurs and companies by generating creative new ideas. Anand says-"Let me assure you that everyone makes mistakes when starting a new business. What is needed to succeed is the will to recognise your mistakes and to fix them quickly. As I learned from my mentors during my internship, 'Fail fast to succeed sooner!'

Source# 2- Book: The little book of coaching (Authors: Ken Blanchard and Don Shula)
Don Shula , one of the most successful football coaches wrote in the book-"I had a Twenty-four rule. I allowed myself, my coaches, and our players a maximum of twenty four hours after a football game to celebrate victory or bemoan a defeat.
During that time, everyone was encouraged to experience the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat as deeply as possible, while learning as much as we could from that same experience. Once the twenty four hour deadline had passed, we put it behind us and focused our energies on preparing for next opponent."

Source# 3- Book: Micheal Phelps- The untold Story of a Champion (Author: Bob Schaller)
After his amazing feats in 2004 and 2008 Olympics, Michael Phelps
needs no introduction. This book primarily talks about his journey from childhood and exclusively covers his run in 2008 Olympics. There's a mention of one of his fellow champion swimmer in the book as follows-"Not making the Olympic team at 2004 Olympic trials really gave Garett Weber Gale a focus he needed in 2008 to avoid mistakes he made 4 years earlier."I have this quote from [UT Assistant] Kris Kubik,' Weber Gale said. "I was just totally broken up at the time, bawling. Kris came up and said, "The way to get through this is to take a minute, remember how this feels, and don't ever let it happen again." I promised myself that day, I wouldn't feel that again- that much disappointment. Its important, to me, to keep promises to myself- its a big deal."

Source# 4- Book: The Greatness Guide2 (Author: Robin Sharma)

"The CEO of Coca-Cola at the annual meeting informed shareholders that the company was now going on an innovation tear and that his organization's reinvention plan was contained in a documented entitled "The Manifesto for Growth." He noted that spending on marketing and innovation would increase by US$400 million and then- and here's the big line- observed, "You will see some failures. As we take more risks,
this is something we must accept as a part of the regeneration process." Which brings me to the imperative of Failing Fast. There can be no success without failure. Its just part of the success...You need to fail to win.

I think one thing that is quite clear from these instances is that the smart people know how to "Fail fast". To me Failing faster constitutes of several factors-
- First is to accept that failures are a part of day-to-day life. No matter how perfect may one claim to be, mistakes are inevitable.
- Do not kill yourself with negative thoughts whenever the mistakes happen.
- Let your failures have a limited shelf life. Remember, Don Shula's (Source# 2) Twenty-hour rule. Don't let your mistakes ruin your thinking after the shelf life expires. But do take learnings beyond twenty four hours.
- As with the case of swimmer Garett Weber Gale (Source# 3), always do remember how bad it feels whenever the mistake is made and use that feeling to enhance your resolve to not do it again.
- Don't just give up something that you believe in just because you have failed in a particular step.
- Learn not only from your mistakes but from others too and all the above rules apply appropriately.