Learn from mistakes

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” ~ Richard Branson

Do you remember a mistake you made in the last 30 days?


Do you remember what you learned from it?


Then stop reading this post. Go, make more mistakes.

A mistake is the best thing that can happen to you when you learn from it.

It can tell you why something didn’t work. It can tell you what changes you need to make to get better. It can make you wiser.

Mistakes. Can. Make. You. Wiser.

Here’s a true story. A story of Vicky. Vicky met me at a local meetup two years back.

He had a couple of Internet business ideas he wanted to start. He was very passionate and thought his ideas would be a money-minting machine for him.

He wanted to pursue both ideas simultaneously. Here’s how our conversation went:

Vicky: What do you think of it?
Me: Pick any one.
Vicky: Which one should I pick?
Me: The one that you can do everything possible to make successful.
Vicky: How do I know if one idea is better than the other?
Me: I don't know. Make a decision. Experiment something around the idea. Gather some data 
and take it from there.
Vicky: What if I fail?
Me: You will.
Vicky: I don't like to fail. What can I do?
Me: Give up.
Vicky: I don't want to give up. What is the next best way?
Me: Fail small; fail fast. Have shorter failure sprints. When you fail fast, you succeed 
fast too. Well, maybe.

“OK. Got it,” he said. But he didn’t get it.

Vicky: Will you be on board of my new startup?
Me: No.
Vicky: You pick the equity percentage. I will be fine with it if you're joining my startp. How can we work it out?
Me: No, thanks. I am dating another startup with 100% of my attention. Maybe next time. Fornow, you read Steve Blank's The Startup Owner's manual. It will help.

A year passed.

Vicky made the first release of his product. It was average. It had a lot of features that were not required. People did not show much interest in their product.

He was demotivated. He told me that he had committed a huge mistake and wasted almost a year working on something that would not be useful.

He also narrated how the freelancer he hired wanted more money from him to include more features.

Vicky believed he was smart. He figured out why the failure of his product was someone else’s fault. He found that the developer he hired was not good at design. Maybe his product was ahead of time. He made logical conclusions.

And he met me at another meetup:

Vicky: My product didn't work. I'm a failure now. You might not want to talk to me.

Me: Keep talking
Vicky: My product failed even though I put best of my efforts.

Me: Is it?
Vicky: Actually, it was the developer. She took more time than she should have taken.

Me: Did you not replace her?
Vicky: I could not. She was the only developer ready to work for the money I offered.

Me: Why she took more time?
Vicky: She worked part time. This is the problem with technical people. They don't give 
their 100% all the time.

Me: Why should someone give 100% of her time when you're paying 25% of what she should get paid?
Vicky: I don't know what to say ...

Me: Do you know anyone who has bought a premium service for peantus?
Vicky: But people also did not want to use my product. They were not intersted in using 
new technology.

Me: Why not?
Vicky: Maybe they are not computer savvy.

Me: Why they are not computer savvy?
Vicky: Maybe it doesn't matter to their business at this point.

Me: That's exactly the point. Did you get out of your building and meet 50 people who were your potential product users and interviewed them?
Vicky: No.

Me: Do you remember that I told you to read Stevel Blank's The Startup Owner's Manual?
Vicky: Yes, but I thought I will read it once my product is built.

Me: I see.
Vicky: What should I do next?

Me: Learn from your mistakes and retry.
Vicky: Do you think that I commit a mistake? It's them. Not me.

Me: LOL :D
Vicky: Why are you laughing?

Me: Whose product failed?
Vicky: Mine.

Me: Then who should be resposible for it?
Vicky: Who? Oh.. me :( But what mistakes did I make according to you?

Me: You did not test your hypothesis. You did not go to market and speak with your 
potential customers. You tried to develop lot of features at once. You took lot of time. 
You hired cheap talent and expected they will do great work. And most important, you still blame others for your product not being successful.
Vicky: So what do you suggest?

Me: I don't suggest anything. You find out. You are wiser now, aren't you?
Vicky: Got it. There is no point in justifying how other people negatively affected the 
end result. I could have executed it better. I made a mistake.

Me: So execute your next project better. Good thing was that you made some decisions. 
It's a different matter that your decisions didn't work and turned out as a mistake. Now 
you know certain things need to change so you will do that.

Making a decision is much better than indecision.

The problem with indecision is that it is also a decision, albeit a passive one. A decision you take by assuming you haven’t taken any decision and wouldn’t have to deal with its consequences.

It’s not true.

Every decision has consequences, and indecision is also a decision.

Mistakes are the results of decisions that don’t work. Accept them. Learn from mistakes and retry once more.

You made a mistake, but it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You’re alive. You’ve become wiser. So, retry. And then retry once more.