An underrated skill – the ability to learn from success and go to the next level

Last month I was in Victoria British Columbia, talking to 50-60 entrepreneurs / freedom fighters from this beautiful Edge community. During a spirited Q&A, a bright young outlaw told me about the F*ckUp session he’d recently attended and asked what I thought about them. I explained my Tom Peters inspired ‘Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Fix Fast’ approach and that I believed the F*ckUp wasn’t the important takeaway; it was the learning and fixing that should be shared.

I also banged on about an underrated skill – the ability to learn from success and go to the next level from there (reference Steve Hansen and the All Blacks, and Pep Guardiola at Manchester City).

Robin Dyke – poet, philosopher and truth seeker was my host in Victoria, and this morning following an energetic early morning winter bike ride, he sent me the following which I thought was great advice to close out 2017 and start 2018 with eyes wide open.

To You of Little Faith (or Too Much), by Robin Dyke

Ah, the words of faith, brought home for me recently at a service I attended at the invitation of a friend (a mentee actually, enacting the subtle role reversal so prevalent in such relationships).

Going in, I had no idea of the extent to which the belief god is angry with us, with me, is so prevalent. That impending sense of doom was half the message, the flip side being god is with us (Immanuel), perfection has arrived to save us. Delivered affirmation was the repetition, all taken in with much enthusiasm, the congregation enraptured, standing and swaying to the musically accompanied message. Who are these people I wondered of the youthful skewed audience, what is the appeal, the quest being answered?

In my thoughts I was reminded of my impressions of a recent F*ckUp session sponsored by our local Tech Association, where the attendees proselytized each other with glee over the confessions of errors and omissions of the f*ckees – now claimed a “world movement”, no less by this type of hype:

Everyone’s favourite night. Nothing like watching accomplished, confident people share their still-raw, professional disasters with a crowd of 200+ colleagues who have been drinking beer. Better than crying. Cheaper than therapy.

All in all, a “confident”, the-gods-aren’t angry-with-you tell it all, delivered to beer guzzling gawkers (learners might be a bit more charitable). Now, you might think, I am of too little faith. What is faith – possibly belief in who you are and what you offer. Belief in how you succeed, not how you f*ckup.

You may make it a practice to learn from your mistakes. Whether you do, or not, there are always those quick and willing to tell you how you screwed up and just how badly. Some of it actually useful! Engage with those ones, but why turn it into a staged production!

In the haste to celebrate mistakes (emphasis on others’), might we be missing the more significant opportunity – learning from our success (yes, we learn usefully from other success models, gain inspiration, but this also deflects from time and effort spent on self-understanding). Do you fathom what you did to bring about your last brilliant success or astute decision, or your very first of either for that matter? I’m asking, do you really understand what combination of capabilities you apply to succeed. This takes a lot of thought. Too quickly we bask in our success and the illusion of stability and miss the inherent meaning. Many, like athletes are prone to reply blandly, I was fortunate to score, etc. Of course there is always the possibility it was just plain luck! But this suggests one might want to fully understand the why of it all. Therein is your art.

Mandela has talked about the fear of our own success being the hurdle challenge to our humanness. That’s the fear in the closet, that faced more productively would cloth us in our own radiance. Sure, the fear of failure is important to overcome as a defensive maneuver, and the gambits like F*ckUp sessions can move us on. The danger is in the cult-ness of the confessionals that make us feel better about our deficits without understanding our true and unique capabilities. Perhaps rather than the misplaced apprehension that god is angry with us, our concern is better directed to appease his frustration – over our fear of our own potential. That’s what makes us squirm, or should

So, why not start with a tinniest of successes – understand what went in to it, what did you do, in what sequence, with what application. What did you bring, call on, to pull off what you did. Herein lies the gold of your unique capabilities and awareness of what you have or has potential for further development and dream accomplishment. Note the dream word, its at the heart of all who we really are and are capable of pulling off. Be angry with yourself if that is not your star. Have faith. Make it so! And BQ!

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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