How To Learn From Your Mistakes

I saw a great piece of career success advice on Brian Tracy’s website the other day…

“In order for you to profit from your mistakes, you have to get out and make some.”

This is so true. Mistakes are great learning opportunities. But many of us are afraid of making them.

There are two important bits of career advice here. 1) Don’t be afraid to act. You won’t always succeed, and you’ll make some mistakes along the way. 2) Treat mistakes as learning opportunities. Learn what you can whenever you make a mistake.

Tweet 48 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Procrastination is the physical manifestation of fear and is a confidence killer. Act; especially when you’re afraid.”

Tweet 36 says, “Don’t be afraid to fail. You fail only if you don’t learn something from the experience.”

Fear is the enemy of self-confidence and success. Fear often manifests itself as procrastination. Most people fear mistakes and failure. It’s only normal. We all want to feel good about ourselves. Mistakes and failure are not pleasant. They lower our self-esteem and make us feel bad about ourselves, so we often avoid doing things that we think might lead to failure. As a career success coach, I advise my clients to have the courage to do things that might result in mistakes and failure.

Mistakes and failure provide you with the opportunity to grow and develop – to become a life and career success. You can’t take them personally. Mistakes and failure are outcomes. They are a result of things you have done. They are not who you are.

We all make mistakes and fail on occasion. This doesn’t mean that we are failures as people. It means that we have made some poor choices and have done some dumb things.

Mistakes and failure provide you with the opportunity to start over – hopefully a little smarter. Buckminster Fuller once said, “Whatever humans have learned had to be learned as a consequence of trial and error experience. Humans have learned only through mistakes.” That’s great career advice. I agree with it wholeheartedly.

Fear leads to procrastination. That’s why putting off things you want to do, and need to do, can really hurt your self-confidence and career success. If your fear of mistakes and failure paralyzes you to the point where you aren’t willing to take calculated risks, you’ll never learn anything or accomplish any of your goals.

Don’t be afraid to make a mistake or to fail. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake or fail. Instead, put your energy into figuring out why you made the mistake or failed. Learn from the experience.

Here are four questions to ask yourself the next time you make a mistake of fail.

  1.  What mistake did I make? Why did I fail? Why did I get criticized or rejected? What did I do to cause this mistake or failure?
  2. What could I have done to prevent this mistake or failure?
  3. What have I learned from this situation?
  4. What will I do differently the next time?

If you do this, you’ll be better able to face your fears and act; and you’ll be using mistakes and failure to your advantage. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says…

“Every adversity, every failure, and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”

I know it’s hard to see the benefit or opportunity in mistakes and failure. But it’s there – you just have to look hard enough. But it all begins by facing your fears and acting; by conquering procrastination.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Successful people are self-confident. Self-confident people face their fears and act. They follow the career advice in Tweet 48 in Success Tweets. “Procrastination is the physical manifestation of fear and is a confidence killer. Act; especially when you’re afraid.” Our most common fears are making a mistake or failing. However, if you choose to find and use the learning opportunities in your mistakes and failures, you will not only become more self-confident, you will become more successful. It’s sad but true – mistakes and failure are the price you pay for becoming a life and career success. Beating procrastination by facing your fear of making an mistake and failing, by doing something, anything, will pay big dividends – and help you create the life and career success you want and deserve.

That’s my career advice on learning from your mistakes. What do you think? Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment. What is the biggest mistake you’ve made? What did you learn from it? How did you put it to work to help you in your quest for life and career success?

As always, thanks for taking the time to read my daily musings on life and career success. I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you check out my career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained. The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less. The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail. Go to to claim your free copy. You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: Have you seen my membership site, My Corporate Climb? It’s devoted to helping people just like you create career success inside large corporations. You can find out about it by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.



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