I don’t necessarily consider making mistakes a bad thing, because I’ve learned so much more from them than my successes. If you own up to the mistakes you make and do your best to learn from them, they can be helpful, actually. I like to think of them as necessary evils.
That having been said, who doesn’t want to make fewer of them? Consider employing these five tips to make fewer mistakes:
1. Follow your gut. Over the years, I’ve learned to trust my instincts, because they’re almost always right. If something doesn’t feel or look right, there’s probably a reason. Do due diligence and look into whatever is concerning you. You know more than you think you do. If it walks like a duck and looks like a duck -- it’s probably a duck.
2. Let time be on your side. Hasty decision-making has been the cause of most of my mistakes. This is especially true when it comes to negotiations. If the party you are negotiating with wants you to make a quick decision -- for whatever reason -- let that serve as a warning. Making good decisions takes time. There will always be seemingly “good” reasons for urgency. I don't buy it. Good decision-making requires perspective, and perspective comes with time. Most decisions can wait.
3. Don’t waste your time on the wrong people. Trying to convince businesses to do something they aren’t currently doing has been a source of angst my entire career. I’ve been selling my inventions for a long time. Over the years, I’ve learned that if I’m selling a variation of an apple, I had better find someone who is buying apples. I’ve spent too much time showing my ideas to people in different industries. The truth is that most people aren’t willing to take a chance on something outside their comfort zone. It’s too hard of a sell -- even if you have a great idea.
Related: What to Do When You Screw Up
4. Realize that some things aren’t meant to be, no matter how much you want them. I’m less of a fighter than I used to be, and that’s a good thing. In the past, when something didn’t go my way, I would focus on working harder. I thought that sheer willpower alone was enough. I know now that it’s not. I’m more accepting these days. Nine out of 10 times, I’m pleased when I let things go. When I look back, I realize things worked out for the best -- perhaps better! If you push too hard, all the time, you’ll end up regretting it. Of course, there’s a fine line between pushing too hard and giving up too easily. It takes time to navigate.
5. Pick up the phone. Miscommunication happens all too easily over email! If you’re ever in doubt, pick up the phone. Email is a very efficient and convenient form of communication. But because it’s so impersonal, your words and intent may be misinterpreted. First, always strive to be as clear as possible, even when you’re in a hurry, and remember to read what you’ve written before you send it. If you sense that a potential conflict may be brewing, pick up the phone and talk it out. It’s worth the minor inconvenience. Many problems can be avoided this way. Relationships are built through dynamic conversations. So make the effort to pick up the phone, and even better, meet the people you are corresponding with in person.
A mistake is really only a mistake if you continue to make it. You’re missing out on an opportunity to be and do better if you don’t analyze yours.