• David Strittmatter

Do not be afraid to make mistakes!

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new


Dear Friend,

I am really glad that you are reading this new issue of my weekly newsletter. I had another great week and many things to tell. And, how was your week going? What challenges did you meet? What are your current goals? Could you come a step closer to achieving it this week? Let me know if you want to!

Do not be afraid to make mistakes

This week was not the best week with respect to my job performance. Although I was highly motivated and worked longer days than ever before, I could not achieve the objectives my boss and me set for myself. We had a very strict deadline and needed to finish a prototype of a very comprehensive report for our customer. This report is partly based on Visual Basic scripts which are coded by my boss and me. As I tried a few things out and my boss worked simultaneously on the script, we had severe unexpected issues on the day right before the meeting with our project sponsor (customer side – the person who is willing to pay with his/her budget to employ us consultants). I was sure that my script is going to work and my report to be finished, but as we merged our two parts of the script, it did not want to work the way we wanted it to work. And why? Because I tried a different approach which did not fit the code of my boss.

This is not generally a big issue. But since we had this tight deadline, this caused severe consequences: We were not finished with our prototype and could not show the customer all the features we wanted to. I was very disappointed of myself and my boss was really stressed as well because in our business the customer is king and we could not meet our expectations. In the end, it was not that bad at all. The customer was really happy with the features we could show and explain. Furthermore, my boss was satisfied after the meeting.

Eventually, I am so glad that I made this mistake and tried another approach. It helped me to understand when it is time to focus on the current best practices and what is working. Moreover, my boss likes my alternative approach and wants me to implement it throughout the script and report since he prefers it over his version. Additionally, I was required to speak up and answer critical question in the customer meeting as I was the only person understanding what and how I implemented it. All in all, it was another great learning.

I am strongly convinced that mistakes are great opportunities for personal growth. Therefore, I am so attuned that I even seek to make mistakes. If you embrace mistakes and failure and do everything that you can make the best out of it, you will have a massive learning curve.

Finally, one very important aspect needs to be mentioned here: Yes, mistakes are huge opportunities for your development. However, you should not do the same mistake twice and learn from every mistake you will make. This may sound trivial, but many people underestimate how many mistakes they do several times and do not want to adapt their behavior and learn from it, unfortunately, huge amounts of wasted potential.

Be always honest and give direct feedback

Another learning I made this week is something what I realized more and more in the last months: Honesty is unbelievably important, not only in personal relationships, family, friends etc., but rather also in professional settings. Ideally, you and your colleagues strive to do your best to achieve your personal goals. In order to obtain them, you usually also want to do your best at work. And to do your best at work, you need to find out what you are good at and what you do not do well yet. And how can you find out what you do well and what you do poorly? Feedback!

What do you think happens when a colleague asks you whether you like something of his/her work and you say to him/her that you like it although you do not? Do you think they believe you? It depends of course on how well and often you “lie”, but usually you, they and I know when someone does not give us honest and direct feedback.

Yes, we like hearing positive feedback and yes, we like when others like what we do. However, we humans desperately want to know the truth ultimately. But why are we not honest when it comes to giving our peers and bosses negative feedback? On the one hand, we do not want to appear rude, unkind and cold, on the other hand, we might be afraid of consequences we face when we give negative feedback to our bosses. In the short term, this might work and lead to acceptable results. In the long-term, this can lead to very impersonal, superficial relationships (you cannot trust each other) and a work environment in which growth is diminished.

I truly believe that we should not criticize others when they did not asked for my opinion (I adopted this mindset from Dale Carnegie – How to win friends), but when they ask you for feedback, you need to be honest and direct. Otherwise, your relationship is doomed and you prevent your colleague from getting better. In my case, I was really honest to my colleague after he asked me what I thought about something he showed to me (part of a report we prepare for our customer). I really disagreed with parts of how he wanted to illustrate the information. So, I explained honestly, cautiously but directly what and why I did not like. He then argued and defended his approach (as we all humans do when we are criticized), but eventually he understood that I wanted to be honest and give my best so that we can achieve great results and, consequently, agreed with most of what I proposed.

I was really proud of me that I was honest and direct in this situation and did not whitewash anything. Eventually, this strengthens our relationships and makes us to work with each other better.

This was the last week's post. I hope you can learn something from these learnings, too. 


All the best to you and yours, David

Self-improvement tips based on my learnings. One article per week. No spam ever.

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