Monday, May 23, 2011

Mistakes Will Be Made...

Though I've been self-employed in one form or another for more than twenty-five years, I sometimes find myself running into various sorts of business obstacles that make me think: "Hmmmm...  Maybe I should give up this whole 'run your own business thing' and let other people make all of the difficult decisions for me."

I think these thoughts...  And then I start talking with folks who have Monday through Friday "real jobs," and realize that these people also run into obstacles with their work and -- more importantly/depressingly -- often have  to deal with the bullshit hassles of office politics, corporate structure and hierarchy, TPS reports, dress codes, and the monotony of a schedule that repeats day after day, week after week, and year after year.

I then think to myself: "Being self-employed is the best thing that can happen to a person."

Sooooooooo...  What does all of this have to do with the title of this post ("Mistakes Will Be Made...")?

Quite a bit, actually.

The most important thing to know about being self-employed is that mistakes will be made during the course of a self-created career.

Big mistakes.

Big, big, BIG, mistakes

Of course, making a mistake of some sort while being self-employed isn't necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, making a big mistake can -- if the proper attitude is adopted -- be one of the absolute best things to happen to a self-employed person.


Myself, I take the approach towards business that every time I mess up royally -- every time that I totally screw the pooch (and what an awesome phrase, btw) -- that I am moving forward with my company.  I know that this might seem somewhat contradictory at first, but just think about it for one moment: if a person isn't moving forward with his or her business -- if he or she isn't trying out new ideas, widgets, products, or processes -- then how can ANY mistakes be made, aside from the mistake of just doing the same old thing over and over and over?

Please excuse my truly horrible, New-Agey, Tony Robbins-esque way of stating this, but mistakes are an indication of progress of being made and opportunities having been presented and tested out.

Uggghh...  What an awful way to say something so valid and important.

Equally as important -- and just as horribly, New-Agely, Tony-Robbins-esquely cliched -- is the notion that mistakes provide an opportunity to learn, all so that these same mistakes won't be made again in the future.

Myself, after any sort of major foul-up with my business, I always go through a basic review process to examine just where, how, and why I messed up so badly, and what can be learned from that mistake.  Typically, the steps that I follow go something like this...

1) Identify the exact specifics of the mistake (i.e.: what is/are the particular thing or things that got screwed up).

2) Identify the most likely cause or causes of the mistake.

3) Determine what impact the mistake might have on business, both short term and long term.

4) Identify as many solutions as possible (if possible).

5) Implement the solution or solutions (if possible).

Though this might seem like a fairly standard review process, I also add a sixth (and very non-standard) element to my checklist:

6) Re-examine the opportunity that was present early on (remember, I said that mistakes come about because of new ideas, widgets, products, or processes being put into action), and see if some other approach or technique can be used with the ideas, widgets, etc...

I often think that great ideas and products get abandoned early on -- almost always due to early mistakes in the process -- when just simple changes in approach would allow the true worth of that idea or product to shine through.  By re-examining the opportunity that exists, or even acknowledging that an opportunity exists in the first place, it becomes far easier to try out other techniques, mindsets, and approaches with that opportunity.  Of course, this might also result in a different sort of failure, but at least an attempt was made and (hopefully) lessons were learned.

The key thing to remember here (and I feel as though I'm somewhat bludgeoning you with the point) is that mistakes made while running a business represents progress.  In the end, this might be the sort of progress where a person has moved "two steps forward and one step back," but applying simple mathematics to this slightly worn out phrase still shows that a person doing the forward and backward dance has -- in the end -- moved forward by one step (i.e.: two minus one equals one), which is a whole lot better than not moving anywhere at all.

A Quick Update!  This is a complete and total coincidence, but Zeke Kamm (the writer, editor, designer, and publisher of Nice Photography Magazine) has just put up a blog post which covers many of the same ideas that I've just outlined.  Please check out the article (he's a much better writer than I am), and be sure to tell him that his magazine is Nice.  

Not Nasty...  Nice.


TheArtfulBurner said...

I came here from Zeke's blog. I think you are one and the same writer trying to be nasty on the one hand and nice on the other. You fail utterly on both sides. I don't want to read something nice. Nice describes the girls who aren't much fun. And nasty isn't the kind of girl I want to spend my life with. Okay the odd night perhaps. But I like both these blogs. So thanks for the perspiration.

Matthew G. Monroe said...

Dear Mr. Artful Burner:

Best. Comment. Ever.

TheArtfulBurner said...

Thank you Matthew.

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