Everybody Makes Mistakes. Here’s What You Can Do About It
Everybody makes mistakes. Our flaws are one of the things that make us human. However, if we can minimize our mistakes we'll have better chances of success.
But is perfection the goal? Or, is that homemade look and feel a better way?
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A couple of Mondays ago, one of my clients called me up. She said she had a personal issue and was wanting to see if I, as a coach, could offer her any advice about dealing with her son and helping with “it.”
I remember watching a college football game a few years ago. It was late in the season, and the rankings had already been established, though not solidified. One of the best teams in the nation was playing one of the worst. Between plays, the cameras would show each team on their sideline, and I noticed something interesting.
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When I watched the McGregor versus Mayweather fight I noticed it. When I scroll through my Facebook feed, I notice it. When I study the greats to learn how I can get better, I notice it.
And, what “it” is, is what we're going to talk about today.
When my client called me up one afternoon, I didn't really know what to expect. She said she had a “personal issue” to ask me about, but, prior to her call, I had no idea what it was or how to prepare.
She told me that she was facing challenges with her son, who was a significant part of their family business. He was in charge of marketing, writing emails, and engaging with their clients on social media. His efforts had helped their company expand beyond their “garage” and grow into a business that generates over $100,000 in sales every year. My client's son has helped their business become a player in their industry, someone to be reckoned with, and who is disrupting the long-entrenched status quo.
But now her son is making mistakes. He's getting sloppy.
The Sports Team
When I tune into sports, which I rarely do, I don't expect to find a lesson on success. But that day I did.
After the play was over and the ball changed hands, the losing team, who was losing by several touchdowns, was acting like most amateurs. They were discussing plays, yelling at one another about the things that were going wrong, and were buckling under pressure.
On the other hand, and on the other side of the field, the winning team behaved like professionals.
But it was the subtle things that stood out to me. I remember watching as one of the players sat on the bench while one of the equipment managers picked the mud out from between the cleats on the player's shoes.
The Professional Fighter
One of the biggest sporting events of 2017 was the boxing match between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather.
Conor, a multiple-belt-wearing champion of the UFC, was going to face Floyd, who, at the time, held an undefeated 49-0 record. Conor was going to leave the octagon and step into the ring with a world champion who was on the cusp of setting a new record.
The fight started off well. Conor came out strong; Mayweather ducked, bobbed, and weaved, taking a few blows and giving a few as well.
But as the rounds continued, Conor started making mistakes. He was over-exerting himself in a game of endurance. He was dropping his hands and leaving himself open. He was getting arrogant while in the ring with one of the most winning boxers of all time.
The Cost of Mitsakes
Before I go on, I'm not browbeating you about mistakes. I'm also not claiming I never make them. Our mistakes and flaws make us human, and when we can talk about them in the larger context of our stories, they can help us be more relatable to the people around us who aren't perfect either.
Put another way, perfect is boring. It's bland and uninteresting. Our mistakes and flaws give us character and make us interesting.
However, in the case of the mother and son, if you're going to sell a product for $5000, you have be worth $5000. But, before you can prove your worth, you'll be judged by whether or not you look, feel, and sound like $5000.
Character flaws are one thing, but massive errors in judgment and mistakes in your communications show people you don't care enough to check your work.
In the case of the football teams, while the losing team was worried about calling the “right” plays, the winning team was focused on eliminating the mistakes caused when shoes can't get the traction the player needs.
If you're struggling with the basics, fine-tuning your processes doesn't matter and is largely a waste of time.
It's a Fine Line
It's a strange thing, we like homemade and homegrown, but only to a point. We don't like buying things that look TOO homemade or TOO homegrown. We prefer that little bit of spit and polish that's required to make something look professional.
We're ok with buying cookies that aren't perfectly round and we don't mind purchasing things that look hand made. However, we don't want to buy something that looks like it was made by a toddler.
There's a fine line between perfectly flawed and carelessly thrown together.
Success is NOT about Perfection
Success is not about being perfect; it's about making the fewest mistakes.
Perfect is impossible; it doesn't exist. Perfect means that it can't get any better, that there are no flaws, and the best possible product has been created. Perfect does not mean success. Success is the elimination of enough mistakes so that you can outperform the competition.
Note: sometimes the competition is ourselves
At every new level of achievement we want to attain, we have to eliminate more mistakes. When you're first starting to write, spelling and grammatical errors are to be expected. In high school, to achieve a passing grade, you have to eliminate your mistakes and clear a bar that has been raised. In college, the bar is higher. And, for a doctoral dissertation, the bar is higher still.
However, if you want to be a professional copywriter and sell your work and charge companies top-dollar for your words, you have to pass the highest bar yet. At every new level, the margin for error is thinner and thinner, and the tolerance for mistakes becomes less and less.
As I've said before, the level of skill that got you on the team won't help you win the championship. You're good enough to start, but not yet good enough to win.
The other day I had lunch with an aspiring author. He wants to go “full-time” as a writer. When he stepped away from the table, I turned to his wife (whom I know very well), and asked her if she thought her husband was good enough.
I then asked her how many high schools there were out there with football teams.
“I don't know,” she said.
“Tens of thousands,” I said.
I asked her about the number of colleges, and we agreed there were not “tens of thousands,” but probably multiple thousands. Then I hit her with the number of professional football teams there were. I told her the number of teams that paid people to play football.
There are 32.
If you want to play at the highest levels, you have to be the best of the best. And, to reach the next level in your business, you have to think like a professional athlete and work on eliminating your mistakes.
Again, success isn't about perfection. At the top, everybody is good. Success is about making fewer mistakes than the other guys.