System1Search Blog

Not Understanding the Truth About Success

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021 | Uncategorized

This is the fourth of 20 blogs about the most common mistakes I observe in career management. These comments and ideas are from my experiences as a recruiter and working with thousands of people over the past twenty-eight years.

The fourth mistake is Not Understanding the Truth About Success

Setbacks, disappointments, and mistakes are part of the development process for successful people. This applies to both of the key ingredients of business success:

  • The development of numerous creative business skills
  • The development of exceptional character

With business skills, nobody starts their career with the perfect:

  • sales plan or sales call
  • scientific technique
  • business plan
  • presentation
  • interview
  • approach to complex business issues and problems etc.

People develop the above skills AFTER a period of study, observation, and trial and error. While people might be distressed by their initial lack of success, ideally, they learn to treat their failures or marginal performance as stepping stones to future improvements and as a motivation to learn more.

Building character generally comes by overcoming personal obstacles. Generally,  nobody starts their career with well developed:

  • Tolerance because they have yet to live through intolerance
  • Courage because they have yet to overcome significant fear
  • Discipline because they have yet to manage chaos
  • Perseverance because they have yet to push through an immovable wall
  • Integrity because they have not yet confronted deceit
  • Respectfulness because they have yet to be disrespected
  • Self-control because they have yet to feel out of control or overwhelmed
  • Compassion because they have yet to be neglected or ridiculed
  • Forgiveness because they have yet to be heartlessly unforgiven

While we might observe these character qualities in other people or notice their absence, we really never own them unless we experience their lack in our life and then work to build them. Sure, we might be impressed and captivated by witnessing other people use tolerance, integrity, and respect and this motivates us to learn to do the same. On the other hand, when we are directly insulted, abused, or neglected, we are more highly  motivated to build them to reduce our distress. This forces us to recognize all the overt and subtle forms of demeaning behaviors, stop expressing them, and then build the character qualities that serve as the antidotes.

The most powerful learning experiences are to be subjected to situations that cry out for more respect, thoughtfulness, courage, and tolerance. In simple terms, the mental and emotional hardship caused by working in a difficult workplace or situation eventually leads people to discover the best way to treat others. Having been hurt badly, people eventually learn to avoid inflicting something similar on others.

This is the huge benefit that comes with “on the job” experiences. Sure, it might be ideal to learn about exceptional business skills and personal character in a book, classroom, or from a helpful mentor who can dish it out in a “nice way”. However, most significant growth and transformation that business people experience is born out of challenging workplace issues that demand new ideas, creativity, flexibility, and character.

The final and necessary key to growth is to avoid becoming permanently wounded, calloused, or cynical by living through difficult workplace experiences that include neglect, insults, setbacks, disappointments and mistakes. If they can survive and use their experiences as teaching moments, they can walk away with significant powerful skills that will only further enhance their career.

To all of this, let me add one additional point in the form of the following questions. “What is your response to people who make mistakes or exhibit “bad behavior”? “Are you quick to judge and condemn their mistakes or “behavior” as a permanent indication that they are people you will never respect or work with?” “If so, do you realize that their mistakes are part of their own growing process and how they learn?” This is how we learn too and isn’t it reasonable to express some understanding and forgiveness versus contempt or anger as people struggle on their own path?

So how about others reading this, do you see that your business success over the years is the result of many lessons along the way, including some very painful ones? Have you avoided bitterness and anger due to your failures or setbacks and instead seen these as some of your biggest motivators to make significant changes? Do you recognize that even if you are a seasoned professional, future growth will include distressing disappointments that if taken in the right perspective, will serve for even greater growth in the future?