Looking Back

Your most powerful business tool is the ability to learn from your mistakes.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the March 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Entrepreneurs are knowledge-seekers. We're constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to improve our business practices. We attend workshops, meet with our peers, obtain feedback from customers and devour information from various books and articles to discover ways we can become more productive. We trust that the proven tactics we gain from these resources will enable us to develop new strategies aimed at achieving success--and quickly.

But all this information is meaningless without our unique interpretation of it. Things move so fast that we often forget to apply new knowledge to our businesses. Great ideas can languish in our subconscious if we don't take the time to reflect and digest the techniques we devised during past projects. You can't reverse or change history, but you can learn from it. Incorporating important, personal lessons into your current operations is all a matter of changing a few small habits.

Make hindsight your mentor
Allow hindsight to guide your actions. Keep a notepad and pen by your bed to document lessons that come to you at night as your subconscious actively replays recent events. Add to this knowledge by routinely documenting new strategic ideas and techniques that become evident throughout the day. Taking note of these thoughts improves your hindsight, prevents oversights from occurring and results in more breakthroughs in your thinking.

Trust your "sixth sense"
As you put time and energy into your business, you'll develop a natural instinct--a sixth sense that will soon make you an expert in your field. Fine-tuning your instincts will show you how seemingly random events fit together within your business environment. When your sixth-sense antenna starts to tingle, don't ignore it. Stop and take a few moments to evaluate the information and explore how it may affect or possibly even resolve your present challenges. Allow your unique insights and hunches to transform into wonderful possibilities for your business.

Integrate hindsight with foresight
History is a great teacher. Let past experiences provide you with helpful advice for the future. Learn to trust your instincts by systematically taking advantage of the everyday wisdom present in hindsight. Then weave what you learned into future projects. Make a habit of chronicling your lessons and updating your business practices accordingly. Disciplining yourself to look at the past and future simultaneously will help you make significant breakthroughs.

Let yourself make mistakes
Because hindsight and personal lessons develop from trial and error, making mistakes is a natural part of this process. Be open to tweaking your hindsight lessons to fit the particular needs of a new project. Open your mind to new strategies and recognize that errors may occur. Be truthful even if it hurts. Forgive yourself for any mistakes and allow hindsight to drive your actions. This process will go a long way in helping you expand your business horizons.

Document and incorporate your hindsight lessons as you pursue the next stage of your business. Pay attention to the details. By drawing on lessons you learn as you engage in everyday actions, you'll achieve even more with less effort. Your proactive hindsight is an effective tool in propelling your business forward and an important reminder that you have the ability to attain any goal.

Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Success and Kick Start Your Dream Business. Write to him at romanus@kickstartguy.com.

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