Can you make mistakes and be successful? Absolutely, Do some people make mistakes that they never fully recover from? Yes, that happens too. Even I make mistakes (hard to believe, I know) So, what’s the difference between mistakes made by successful versus unsuccessful people? Let’s have a look as some successful people who have made mistakes. Perhaps even failed.
We can learn from peak performers who made mistakes but bounced back. Houeshold names like Michael Jordan, Jeff Bezos and Oprah Winfrey.
Michael Jordan’s lost games
Michael Jordan, in case you don’t know the bloke, was considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. In a 2012 Nike commercial, Jordan admitted the reason for his success was that he had so many attempts. He tried and failed over and over again. He was turned down for the high school basketball team but he didn’t give up.
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”Michael Jordan
Jeff Bezos’ multi-billion dollar mistakes
In case you haven’t heard of Jeff Bezos, he is the multi-billionaire founder of Amazon. Currently sitting in the position of richest man in the world, at $177 Billion. Most people have heard of Amazon but what they don’t know, is that Bezos has made multi-billion dollar failures as well. Bezos doesn’t always get it right, nor does he think he should.
“If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle.”Jeff Bezos
Oprah Winfrey being fired from TV Anchor role
Oprah Winfrey, self made billionaire, talkshow host, philanthropist and OWN media network owner has made mistakes. Among them, she was fired from her first job as TV Anchor. A quick Google search reveals Oprah admits she launched her OWN media network too soon and if she had to start over, she may not do it again. Oprah’s view is slightly different.
“If you’re constantly pushing yourself higher and higher, the law of averages predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do, I want you to remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”Oprah Winfrey
Life in Silicon Valley: Move fast and break things
When you look at fast growth companies from Silicon Valley, they often make mistakes. The take risks that are questionable to say the least and sometimes turn out to be illegal to say the worst. Indeed, their mantra can best be summed up by the title of a book I read a few years ago called “Move Fast and Break Things” by Jonathan Taplin.
In case you don’t remember, in 2018, Facebook enabled the Cambridge Analytica scandal. By allowing consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to access sensitive information about millions of Americans, with the aim of building a psychological warfare tool to manipulate information and ultimately win elections.
Sheryl Sandberg cost Facebook $5B and kept her job
Sheryl Sandberg was the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook and she was the one who put up her hand to take full responsibility for Facebook’s blunder. Facebook was ordered to pay US $5 Billion, by the Federal Trade Commission, following the breach. That’s BIG. In fact it’s a record. A quote below from Sheryl’s book, Lean In, shows her beliefs about progress. If everyone is happy, you’re not making enough of it.
“…when you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress”Sheryl Sandberg
At the time of writing, Facebook is worth $1.21 Trillion (yes, with a T). I feel like Dr Evil himself should be announcing these figures. Don’t know how much that is? Me neither. I had to look that up. Here’s some quick sums… 1,000 x 1 million= 1 billion. 1 billion x 1,000= 1 trillion. Considering Facebook makes their money by how it uses your private data, a $5 billion fine was probably worth every penny.
What happened to Sheryl Sandberg you ask? Nothing. She is still Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. Still worth $1.9 billion personally. For the slap on the wrist she got, I think she will be okay. Don’t get me wrong. The point here is not to bash Sanberg or Facebook. In fact, from a philosophical point of view, I feel like Facebook is like the scorpion that bit the frog, as it was being carried across the water. You can’t blame the scorpion because biting is in its nature. Careless use of your private data is in Facebook’s nature.
What mistakes do successful people make?
Successful people take calculated risks
Successful people and companies take calculated risks. Most of these risks are not spontaneous life or death risks. Instead, they are risks perceived as affordable. For you, a multi-billion dollar failure might criple you. However, for Jeff Bezos, it’s a small price to pay. Michael Jordan built a career by training hard and taking plenty of winning shots, so he was probably forgiven for his less common failures.
Make learning sized mistakes
Greg McKeown, Author of Essentialism and Effortless, explains the trick is to make learning sized mistakes. Careful that what you’re risking is not going to make or break you. Make sure, when possible, you can live with the consequences of making the wrong mistake. If you can, fail fast and fail often. As long as you are learning from each mistake.
Fire bullets, then cannonballs
Jim Collins wrote in his book, Great by Choice, that highly effective managers fire bullets first, then cannonballs. In other words, they don’t risk losing the cannon ball when they only have one to fire. They test their aim by first firing a bullet. If their aim is off, they recalibrate and fire another bullet until they hit the target. When they are sure their aim is on point, they will fire their cannon. The same is true when you’re developing a new product, considering a major investment or taking a calculated risk. Test, test and test again until you get it right.
Learn from your mistakes
Sometimes experience is the best teacher. Be bold, make mistakes and learn from them. Unless you want a great deal of heart ache, don’t be reckless. Make your risks calculated ones, where the payoff when you get it right is significantly greater than the cost of it going wrong. You’re not the only one who makes mistakes. Successful people make mistakes too. Are you making the right, learning sized mistakes? If so, fail fast, fail often and learn everything you can from the experience.