Why You Must Allow Mistakes in Your Life

Why You Must Allow Mistakes in Your Life

Why You Must Allow Mistakes in Your Life

access_time Aug/06/2017

How often have you beaten yourself up over making a mistake?

Maybe it was small, or maybe it was big, but did it really serve you and your bigger goal to get down on yourself? If you’re being honest, the answer is likely "no."

That’s because everyone makes a lot of mistakes in their lifetimes, and those mistakes often turn out to be our biggest teachers.

But they can’t teach us anything if we shame ourselves when we make mistakes.

Instead, I invite you to practice gratitude for each mistake, see it as an opportunity to learn and let it add fuel to your fire to become better.

Sharing my thoughts on this in 5 Minute Friday, Episode 516.

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Love Your Job? Put an Exit Plan in Place Anyways.

When you hate your job, you often think about leaving it. But when you are happy with your work putting an exit plan into place seems somewhat bizarre. Nevertheless, smart employees should always be prepared to quit their job tomorrow.

Related: 4 Career Failings You Should Forgive Yourself For

The reason is that the future is always unknowable. Just because your job satisfaction is sky-high today doesn't mean that tomorrow your company won't announce mass layoffs, or hire a horrible new boss, or commit an ethical transgression that you do not wish to comply with.

An exit plan is about giving yourself options. Our jobs are usually the only means we have of paying rent, buying groceries and supporting ourselves and our families. Job-hunting is tough and can take a long time. Being unprepared, therefore, means risking getting stuck at a workplace you've suddenly found you hate.

Convinced of the need for an exit plan but confused about its practicalities? Here's what yours should look like:

1. Have unemployment savings

The majority of us -- 63 percent -- are one paycheck away from homelessness. The reason? A lack of savings; one-quarter of workers save nothing at all each month. For those in steady employment, this might not seem like a big deal. But what if you were made redundant tomorrow?

Make it a personal goal to have a savings account that would allow you and your dependents to survive several months of unemployment. How much you need to save depends both on your necessary outgoings (rent, bills, etc.) and the average length of time it takes someone of your position and industry to find a new job.

Quitting a job without another source of income guaranteed is rarely a good idea, but sometimes circumstances may force your hand. Knowing that you have emergency savings to fall back will alleviate some of the stress of these situations and give you enough time to get fully back on your feet.

2. Network, network, network

The widespread statistic that 85 percent of jobs are filled by networking may be an exaggeration, but the power of personal connections is indisputable. Professional contacts can alert you to industry openings, put in a good word for you with their employer, hire you on a freelance or contract basis, provide references and recommendations and generally smooth your job hunting process considerably.

Related: 3 Ways Being a Bookworm Translates to Career Success

You don't have to be actively looking for a job to be actively sourcing, building and maintaining these relationships. Keep in touch with useful business contacts. Attend relevant conferences and industry meets. Be ready to provide assistance and favors to people who could be useful to you in the future. Expand your network by soliciting introduction to new contacts from current ones.

In short, build a reputation as a competent, friendly and dynamic person that people want to hire and work with.

3. Do your freelance prep

Thanks to the twin forces of globalization and digitization, many jobs can now be performed on a freelance or contractor basis. If that is applicable to your job, it's worthwhile investing some time in figuring out how it would work and laying some groundwork. That could mean building good relationships with potential clients, making sure your LinkedIn page and other websites are top-notch, and gathering together suitable examples for a portfolio.

It may even be appropriate to dip your toe in the freelance waters by taking on some side-projects (assuming your company doesn't prohibit this). The idea is to get everything in a place where you could easily ramp it up if necessary.

The same logic should apply to any side-projects you've got an interest in doing. If you enjoy spending your weekends making jewelry or writing science-related blog posts, explore the ways you could turn it into a money-spinner if needed. Personal businesses always require some initial capital to get going; whether for printing business cards or buying a website domain name. Covering those initial costs while employed means you wouldn't have to worry about multiple out-of-pocket expenses when you're not.

4. Keep your skills polished

There are undoubtedly specific skills that help you do your job well; invest time and effort into ensuring they're consistently honed, updated and expanded upon. Research the attributes that would be required for a job at the level above you, and start working on them now, whether in work or outside of it.

The internet is filled with free online courses that can teach you everything from coding to Adobe Photoshop. Take advantage of them. Not only will it benefit you in your current position, it'll ensure your CV is kept up-to-scratch should you need to pull it out in a hurry.

Related: 4 Things You Need to Start Rewarding Yourself For

In conclusion...

It may be that you never need to use your exit plan at all. Great! You'll benefit from the strong network, polished skills and rainy-day funds regardless. You'll also be able to enjoy your awesome job in security and confidence, and be better placed to tackle any arising issues or rough patches with the mindset that working through it is a choice, not a requirement.

Exit plans are there to give you relief if things go wrong in the future, but they will also make you a better, happier and more confident employee in the present.

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How to Face Your Fears and Bounce Back

Not everyone would choose this path. But when Mark Mathews was a kid, he was terrified of the ocean. However, professional surfing was the lifestyle and career that was calling to him.

So he faced his fear, dove in and became one of the best big wave surfers in the world. And he didn’t stop there. As an introvert, he was also extremely scared of public speaking.

But as his surfing career took off, he realized he could create a second career on stage, speaking about facing fear.

So he once again faced one of his greatest fears and learned the skill of public speaking.

Today Mark is not only a sought-after surfer and speaker, he is one of the most grateful men I’ve met.

Especially considering how many injuries he’s sustained (including an intense leg injury he’s still recovering from).

As we talked about what pain and fear have taught us, Mark explained in simple terms how valuable it is to face our fears, push ourselves through them and practice that over and over again. It’s how we become comfortable being uncomfortable.

That’s just one inspiring lesson you’ll hear in Episode 515.

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Do Your Suppliers Like You?

We were broke. We were looking for every way possible to save money even though we didn’t have any. We had no choice but to be resourceful when we started Barefoot Wines. It wasn't long before we realized that the best use of our limited funds was simply to improve the quality of our business relationships.

Did our customers, suppliers and employees like us? Did they know us? Did they trust us? If so, we could get more done with less. If not, it would cost us significantly more money and limit our opportunities to grow.

Related: Build a Good Relationship With Your Suppliers

One of the greatest lessons we learned during our adventures creating this top-selling wine brand was to put ourselves in the other person's shoes. Sounds simple. But it's not. We learned that we really had to probe deeply to find out what each group wanted. It wasn't always what we thought. We asked tons of questions, and after a while, we began to understand their needs and help them achieve their goals.

We thought our suppliers’ top concern was getting paid, and getting paid on time. Sure, that was a big factor, but we discovered other, more subtle interests they were just as keen on. They wanted to grow their business, just like we did.

Our largest supplier provided us with bottles, corks, closures, and cartons, basically all our packaging needs. Our good credit and terms with them were critical to our survival. The first time we discovered we couldn’t make a payment to them on time, we were shaking in our boots. We knew we could not afford to lose them. But after we thought about it and the long-term consequences, we decided to take the initiative and we gave them a call.

Related: Don't Get Scammed: 3 Tips to Find a Supplier

We told them we were aware that we owed them $40,000 and the payment was due in two weeks. We said our cash flow report indicated that we would not have the funds to pay them on time. We said we knew they were counting on our payment to pay their own bills, and we were calling because we wanted to give them a heads-up so they could plan ahead for this shortage of funds. Further, we told them that our next three receivables were earmarked for them, and our account would be current within 60 days.

They said, “Wow! Nobody ever called ahead of time us to tell us they’re going to miss a payment. They usually go dark and we have to chase them down! You’re the kind of customer we want to do more business with!” They extended our credit terms right then and there, even when we were late on our payment! By showing empathy for their position, they felt they could trust us. We reinforced our relationship by signing a long-term agreement with them.

Interestingly, we had started this positive relationship by how we behaved under duress. We continued to build this essential rapport by meeting with them in person every quarter to share our plans, our progress, our challenges, and our opportunities. They knew that if our business was successful they would grow with us. They would sell a lot more supplies to a high volume, popular-priced wine than to an exclusive high-priced wine.

After a few years, we had a tremendous opportunity to sell to a giant chain in Florida with more than 600 stores. It meant a huge increase in volume …if we could only afford the supplies to fill their initial order! When we shared this opportunity and corresponding challenge, our supplier agreed to raise our credit limits and extend our terms to get the business going. Building that relationship was worth a fortune!

Related: 10 Questions Every Entrepreneur Needs to Ask Suppliers

Once they saw us as a true “partner,” they would regularly advise us about changes in the marketplace, competitive initiatives, and best practices. This insight was invaluable, especially to a new, struggling company. Eventually, we ordered supplies from them at quantity discounts and they warehoused them at no charge until we needed them. This enabled us to lock in the best prices without sitting on inventory.

Today when we ask entrepreneurs what they need the most, “More money!” is the most common refrain. But when we probe a little deeper, it’s their relationships with their suppliers that need their attention. Instead of playing suppliers off against each other for the best prices, we found that giving the one that was eager to grow our empathy, our loyalty, and our plans for expansion, we forged a solid strategic alliance worth more than money.

How is your relationship with your supplier? Do you really need more money, or would extended credit, free warehousing, and reduced costs of goods satisfy your needs?

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Pyramids Are for Dead Pharaohs

Like most startups, we started out undercapitalized. The only “office” we could afford was our laundry room. We had extra space there because we couldn’t afford a washer and a dryer. Our first desk was an old door we supported on two sawhorses. We were scrambling for sales, every day, just to stay in business. There were only two of us, but there was no question in anyone’s mind that without sales we were finished, and then there would be no Barefoot Wine!

As we began to grow we hired people who specialized in production, accounting, marketing and administration. We moved into larger offices and even hired a sales force that worked throughout the country. The salespeople were “outside” while the office and production people were “inside.”

That’s when we began to see our little company slowly but surely succumb to the pyramid corporate structure. Each division established its hegemony. People began to compare themselves to other professionals in other companies in terms of salary and best practices. Before long, our flat two-person company looked like a pyramid. Eventually, the organization chart became a constant status reminder with various levels and impenetrable silos.

That's when sales began to stagnate. People in the office began referring to the salespeople as being “out there,” cut off from the proximity of the office folks. If sales were poor, it was “their fault.” The office folks became isolated and insulated from sales. “Sales is not my job,” they would say. 

Sound familiar? It should. Most companies are pyramid structures with the CEO on top, then the division chiefs followed by the department heads, then the teams, groups and units. Somewhere down near the bottom are Sales and Customer Service. Ironically, these are the only two groups that talk to the customer every day. They know what’s working and what’s not. They know the marketplace, the competition and the complaints.

After a very trying year, we decided to take our first real vacation. We left our phones behind and went backpacking in the jungles of Kauai for two weeks. When we returned, sales had not improved. But we had! We had gained a more objective view of our business and what was happening to it. It dawned on us that we needed to get back to that entrepreneurial spirit we had in the laundry room by putting sales back on top.

We looked at our pyramid structure and realized, “How can we say we put the customer on top when we put sales and customer service on the bottom?” We turned it all upside down. We drew a new organization chart with only two divisions: Sales, and Sales Support!

Everyone who was not in Sales or Customer Service was in Sales Support. That included the winemaker, the CEO, the CMO, the CTO, the CFO, all the C’s, the VP, and even the P - the whole alphabet! All in Sales Support. We enforced this new relationship in three ways:

1. Quarterly Bonuses. We matched everybody’s 401K on a sliding scale of how well the company did that quarter based on agreed-upon metrics of sales, growth and profitability.

2. The Money Map. Everyone got a process map that graphically demonstrated the circuitous route the money took starting with our end-user consumer and moving through the retailer, through the distributer, through our company and eventually ending up in their pay checks. It showed the dollars dwindling at every turn as service and supplies costs eroded the initial purchase.

3. Quarterly Sales Meetings. We invited the entire staff once a quarter to listen to the goals, challenges, and opportunities the salespeople faced. We all heard the feedback from the customer service people, and we all helped brainstorm solutions.

Did we get push back? You bet! Our accountant said, “I have nothing to do with sales. I’m an accountant. I get accounting magazines, belong to a professional organization, go to professional conferences. How can I affect sales?” We said, “Don’t worry, you’ll find out!” Two weeks later he got an anxious call at 5 PM from our salesperson in Florida. A big buyer had a last-minute cancellation in his schedule and could fit our guy in at 8 AM. He needed sales reports, projections and pricing. Our accountant stayed up all night to complete the tasks! Our salesperson got the reports on time and made the sale!

There’s a lot of talk today about engaging and empowering your people. Companies want to get back to the entrepreneurial culture. The backbone of entrepreneurship is sales. The two-division company reinforced the value of teamwork, engaged everyone in sales and virtually saved our company.

Isn’t time to take another look at your company structure? After all, pyramids are for dead pharaohs, aren’t they?

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This Question Reveals the Truth About Workplace Diversity

Imagine your organization is expanding into Texas, where your goods or services are needed but you have no footprint or name recognition.

The population of the region is very diverse but largely Hispanic, specifically Mexican American. You are responsible for hiring the person to lead the expansion -- to brand the organization, hire direct reports, find ways to connect with customers, and work with local leaders in the communities and government.

There is no internal candidate for the position and the search has been narrowed down to two equally qualified and likeable candidates: a Mexican American woman who has never lived or worked anywhere but Minnesota her whole life and has no knowledge of the target market and a non-diverse woman who has lived and worked with the target market all her life and is well-established in the business community.

Who would you hire?

Did you say the Mexican American? So did more than 80% of the senior leaders -- both in HR and in other departments -- I presented this scenario to. The percentage was over 95% among non-diverse leaders, and after they answer, they all look at my face and say, “Uh-oh, I’m wrong, aren't I?”

Related: Why the Accenture Gender-Parity Target Is Insane -- and Bad for Women

Yes, they are, and so are you if you chose the Mexican American. Here’s why: you were thinking about optics and workforce representation -- not increasing influence. You were thinking about diversity -- not inclusion -- which is why workforce representation, as it is usually defined, solves for quotas and not growth. It solves for diversity but rarely solves for inclusion.

Of course we need more diverse leaders in positions of influence to serve diverse marketplaces. But you think that influence is achieved by hiring a single Mexican American who looks like the market but has no idea how the people in that market live? She’s from Minnesota -- a state that looks and acts nothing like Texas -- but company leaders want to hire her simply because she is Mexican American. The result is that a company hires for representation rather than the best talent for what it is solving for. Representation is about quotas -- not moving all people to the center of our growth strategies. It’s about compliance -- not influence.

I get that organizations across industries from education to healthcare to engineering to retail are facing demands to increase the workforce representation of diverse populations. But those organizations also know the talent pipeline of qualified diverse workers available to fill roles of influence is limited. Those that are available need to be placed on high potential tracks that allow them to earn influence in the organization based on performance capabilities. In other words, organizations need to understand and celebrate how their backgrounds introduce new ways of thinking that promote diversity of thought throughout the organization.

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

To do that, we need inclusive leadership that prepares diverse populations to be successful by embracing authenticity rather than forcing assimilation. Only then can they challenge the status quo and create inclusive foundations for identifying and hiring the most qualified diverse and non-diverse leaders long term. Otherwise, we get diversity without inclusion, and all that solves for is quotas rather than growth.

Simply put, a leader does not have to be a diverse candidate to best serve diverse populations or their communities. In this particular example, the non-diverse candidate was this organization’s path to long-term growth and sustainable inclusive leadership. The usual mindset of quota and workforce representation made this hire a short-term compliance play.

This is why human resources (HR) should not and cannot be responsible for managing all of these change management requirements. Ask yourself how many decisions you have made through the HR, I-have-to-choose-the-diverse-candidate lens? How much has that cost you in engagement and retention, workplace culture, and close-minded decisions, along with all the money associated with those things? Probably a lot.

Related: 5 Ways to Recruit Rock-Star Employees on a Budget

Both candidates may know they need talent to help sell and sustain the company in that market and need to hire talent that understands that market to solve for the opportunity gaps that lead to a long-term growth strategy. But only one candidate has the relationships and understanding in the market and the wisdom to best serve the unique needs of the community to do this, and what she lacks in diversity, she makes up for in diversity of thought.

It is time to disrupt the status quo and reinvent the ways we work and lead. The marketplace has changed, yet our thinking has not evolved. It’s time to embrace a new mindset that moves diversity and inclusion to the center of an organization’s growth strategy and gives diverse talent influence to start growing from the center out, so everyone has the opportunity to be inclusive and influence the future.

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