The Importance of Learning From Your Mistakes, Failures and Setbacks

I send daily motivational quotes to my career mentoring members.  Last week, I sent one from Benjamin Disraeli, a Victorian era British Prime Minister.  Check it out…

“There is no education like adversity.”

I suggest that when my members receive a quote that they should think about how it applies to them and their life and career, then take some action based on the wisdom in the quote.  I believe that thoughtful action is the foundation of life and career success.

To use the Disraeli quote as an example….

My immediate thought when I saw this quote was that experience is a good teacher, but it can also be a hard teacher.  Most things I’ve learned through experience have come with the price of some pain.  So I immediately bought into what Disraeli is saying.  Hard lessons, ones that come with pain, can be a great springboard to learning.

I urge my career mentoring members to look for the lesson in every setback and failure.  It’s there, you just have to look for it.

Here’s a personal example.  When I started my consulting business in 1988. I was in high marketing mode.  I asked friends and clients for referrals.  When I got a referral I followed up right away.

At that time, I was living in New York City.  I received a referral to a guy in Chicago.  We spoke on the phone and I told him I would be happy to visit him in his office in Chicago to discuss how I might be able to help him.

We agreed on a date and I flew to Chicago.  When I met with him it became very clear to me that he was happy to meet with me because he thought he could get some free advice from me.  After our meeting it was very clear to me that no business was going to come from this conversation.

What was the pain?  What did I learn?

The pain was mostly financial.  It cost me about $250 to fly to Chicago.  The hotel and meal and taxi costs added another $400 to the visit.  I spent approximately $650 on a marketing/sales trip that led to no business.

From this episode I learned the importance of qualifying leads. I began telling potential clients that I would be happy to give them a free half day of consulting if they would pick up my expenses.  I didn’t make any money during these calls which were more marketing than consulting, but at least I didn’t lose any money in the process.  I learned that people who were serious about contracting for my services were more than willing to pay my expenses to visit with them.  Those who weren’t willing to do so, were unlikely to hire me.

In other words, it took a little adversity – wasting $650 on a sales call – for me to learn the lesson of qualifying clients.

The next time things don’t work out for you, remember this story.  Look for the lesson in every setback, failure and adversity and the experience that led to them won’t be wasted.

Your career mentor,


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