Learning from our successes is valuable

The most dangerous lie we can tell ourselves is: I've learned more from my failures than my successes

I receive a regular inspirational message in my inbox every morning. It’s a great way to start my day. I see many more of these messages throughout the course of my day. They are everywhere. These encouraging statements are nothing new, one of my favorites drummed into my head by my mother — “Good Better Best, never let it rest, until the Good is Better and the Better is Best” — has served me well through school, business and my personal life.

I recently read an interesting article about filtering these sayings into Glass Half Full or Glass Half Empty categories. The writer describes these sayings as small lies. They have an important subtle message, but they’re perceived as whole truths. And, often they’re so universal we don’t even give them a second thought. But, these small lies end up having a pretty distorting effect on our behavior or our perceptions.

One example is the statement “life is short.” I hear it all the time. I understand why people say it. What they mean is “live life to the fullest.” But we don’t say that. We instead say “life is short.”

In the world of business I think the most dangerous lie we tell ourselves is: “I’ve learned more from my failures than my successes.” It’s simply not true.

What is true is the statement, “I’ve developed more character from my failures than my successes.”

But, I firmly believe we learn more from our successes by far.

If you fail, all you know is that the particular path you took didn’t work. But, it really doesn’t tell you much about which of the other paths might work. But, if you succeed, you’ve created a pattern for success; a guide that can give you a sense of where to go next time.

It helps you understand, at an intuitive level, what feels right and what feels wrong. In essence, it gives you what everyone calls a “gut feel” for success. And, it’s why venture capitalists focus on past successes much more than past failures.

It is immensely valuable for people to participate in a pattern of success. That will shape the way you think and make you immensely more valuable to the next business venture you go to or start yourself. The most important thing you can develop early in your career is a gut for what success feels like. The only way to do that is to be part of something successful.

So, please don’t tell yourself that you’ve learned more from your failures. We all get character from our scars, but we learn far more from our successes.


— Kim Burden is executive director of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce



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