By Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch
Sometimes we have to learn the hard way.
We do what we believe to be the right thing based on past experience, only to find out later that it wasn’t.
I was in London recently and saw a sign on the underground (subway) and it said something along the lines of: “Life is not long enough to succeed by learning from your own mistakes. Learn from other people’s mistakes.”
This pulled me up short. We learn from failure. And, we learn the most when we fail ourselves. The startup mantra is persistency and resiliency. Fail forward. Learn the lessons. Apply them and keep going. It’s an incremental approach to improvement. But who would not want to do things right the first time?
That is easier said than done.
Most experts tell us what to do. But often, our inner ego stops us from hearing what is being said – in the same way we didn’t listen when our parents said that broccoli was good for us.
We can go and read about best practices and the tens of thousands of tips articles, videos and infographics that show us the path.
But in the rush of life – how many of us stop and take the time to search out and really take on board information that may be at variance with what we think we know.
Learning from others is not always easy. When we see others fail, we are more likely to see these as teaching moments. In part, because it’s not our ego that is getting bruised, we can maintain the illusion of infallibility.
It takes hardy souls to admit and share error. We all know how difficult it is. We need to remember that sharing our experiences, particularly failures, is a powerful storytelling technique.
Since our goal is to have people act on what we say – case studies about what went wrong are as important as what went right. They may well be more likely to drive engagement and action than panglossian tales of success – the usual default.
There’s common sense that needs to be applied here. Clearly, no one is going to hire the PR company that only highlights their failures to generate coverage for a client or digital advertising strategies that backfired. Disparaging competitors for their failures is not a winning strategy either.
The lessons from failures as they may apply to a potential client are powerful. Stories about journalists who would not cover a company’s self-serving release, of a Tweet that went viral for the wrong reasons or why it’s critical to start with SEO in mind when building a website rather than when it’s built, are invaluable. It’s human nature to want to tell stories about our successes and edit out our failures.
Most entrepreneurs’ success is built on failure. So sharing yours, along with your successes, will resonate and build confidence that your experience will make it more likely that the program you execute will achieve its desired results.