I love this post from Ray. To warn you, I am a big fan of Ray's principles. I firmly believe that principles allow us to optimize our decision-making, align our logic, and help navigate life. Since reading Ray's book, I started adopting some of his principles and creating my own. It has been a fun practice, and many of my colleagues appreciate me being open about my principles and sharing them with them to understand how I operate.
As a former athlete, Ray’s sports analogy strongly resonates with me. Yes, personal mistakes stink. They hurt our ego (yes, we all have one — some more profound than others). We all secretly wish we were “perfect” but guess what — perfection does not exist. As I grow older, I realize more deeply the importance of learning from mistakes and understanding of weaknesses and blind spots.
How would our life look like if we re-framed mistakes into learning opportunities that allow us to refine our decision-making algorithms and sharpen our skills?
How accurate would our decisions be if we knew what we don’t know and were able to openly talk about it? This does sound a bit utopian, doesn’t it?
One of my wise professors once told:
Life is not about the mistakes we make, but rather it is about how we recover from them. It is not about the wins, but it is about how we recover from the downs when true character shows.
It is during the downs when the world gets lonesome. Everyone wants to be your friend when things are going great, one is winning, and life is easy. No one wants to take responsibility and accountability for the mistakes and most people forget you when life gets tough. One is left in a darkness, drowning mostly alone. It is at that time that courage needs to be found to continue to move forward.
I may have diverted too much towards mistakes, but the reason for sharing this story is that we all make mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable and they are part of our journey towards a given goal. If we accept that mistakes are going to come and take them as an opportunity to learn and iterate on our operating model, then life gets a bit lighter and a bit more bearable. We can find joy in finding improvement instead of being lost in darkness — beating ourselves up over our mistakes. If there is one thing I have learned in life, it is that beating ourselves up over our own mistakes is not useful. It only wastes time, it is not productive, and it doesn't allow you to move on effectively.
One of my key principles that I borrowed from Ray also connects to this:
Create a culture in which it is o.k. to make mistakes and unacceptable not to learn from them.
This also connects to another principle:
Be radically open-minded and radically transparent.
If we want transparency, we need to be able to accept feedback from others. Open-mindedness is important as we need to be open to accepting that other people see the world differently than we do. Transparency may hurt as it may mean that someone is pointing out our mistakes which requires courage as it hurts our ego. What is good about it? Most of the time, if someone takes the time to point out a “mistake” or an area for an improvement it typically means that the person cares about us and that he/she wants us to improve. It is way easier to carry on with life and say nothing, than it is to stand up and tell a person that there may be a better way to deal with a problem and that someone needs to improve their operating model.
From experience, I have learned that it is not the people who tell you in your face that you have done something wrong who we should be scared of. Instead, fear the people who don't tell you or tell others behind your back. One of my favorite quotes of all time:
Tennis is a lot like life, working hard in rallies, looking for openings, making shots, missing…
Missing is a big part of our lives. Learn to enjoy mistakes and learn from them. Don’t worry about looking good. Worry about achieving goals.