Mistakes as Vehicles to Success

Accidents and mistakes have given us many advantages that otherwise might have never come about. In fact, experimental accidents have been responsible for many of our scientific and medical advances over the past few centuries. The business world has also learned to take mistakes and failures to heart as learning experiences rather than obstacles. Our mistakes can be viewed as stepping stones to future successes.

Famous singer/song writer Janis Ian recently documented in a blog post several of the mistakes she has made over the years. Describing herself as prone to accidents “in the minefield of life,” she revealed some whopping errors. Three noteworthy examples are refusing the role eventually played by Rhea Pearlman in the hit TV series Cheers, passing on performing at Woodstock, and declining to write the musical score for the blockbuster film, The Graduate.

These were definite mistakes, to be sure. But as serious as these now obvious blunders were, Janis Ian is still doing what she loves and making others happy in the process. She is earning a living writing music and performing, and the world is better for this. None of her mistakes in that minefield have kept her down nor kept the world from enjoying her music.

Isaac Newton’s mother made a mistake that had the potential of altering the history of science. Young Isaac was pulled out of school to help run the family farm, but he was really no good at this, and his mother recognized it. She also knew that he really wanted to finish his schooling. When she realized that this was a far better fit for her son, she found another way to get the farm running as it should and allowed her son to finish school. The world of science is better because of this woman’s mistake being corrected and learned from.

Many stories tell of business successes born after their founders’ prior failures. Macy’s, the department store chain, is one of the largest such chains in the world, but Rowland H. Macy suffered through multiple business failures before learning enough from them to bring him and his family fame and wealth.

Dave Anderson of Famous Dave’s BBQ restaurants was, at one time, a not-so-famous Dave, after experiencing not one, but two business bankruptcies. One of them was as a wholesale florist supplying very large clients like Sears Roebuck. His business grew so rapidly that he failed to keep up with it, and lost the business. But, he learned from his mistakes and personal limitations. Indeed, he describes failure simply as “a learning tool.”

Since Dave knew that he loved making food, a restaurant was an obvious choice, and Famous Dave’s is the famously successful result, but he did not stop there. Anderson also created the LifeSkills Center for Leadership in Minneapolis, investing over a million dollars to start the program for helping at-risk Native American youth. The program focuses on leadership skills–the same skills Dave learned from his previous mistakes.

As author John C. Maxwell put it in his successful book, Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, your objectives should include this mantra: “Fail early, fail often, and fail forward.” Mistakes should become vehicles, not obstacles. Like Janis Ian, despite mistakes you keep on keeping on. Isaac Newton’s mother learned that correcting mistakes can create value where none appeared to be. Like Rowland H. Macy and Dave Anderson, you build success on the foundation created by prior failures.

As social activist, composer, and singer Bernice Johnson Reagon put it, “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

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Learning True Humility

True humility comes from a rejection of its opposites (pridefulness and arrogance), along with nurturing of acceptance, listening instead of speaking, and focusing more on another person than on yourself. That meaning was expressed beautifully by the ancient philosopher Confucius, with:

“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.”

One of the most popular films of all time is “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray. As the pre-humility Phil Connors, he is the perfect caricature of a self-absorbed personality. This film is a wonderful depiction of the learning of this life lesson about the importance of humility.

As you recall, the plot is basically his journey toward humility and service to others. He is rescued from a perpetual loop when he learns the lesson, and can then get on with his life as a more mature and complete person.

A favorite character interaction in the movie is that between the well-practiced jerk, Phil Connors, and the well-intentioned, but mentally limited, bed-and-breakfast operator who makes an innocent comment about the weather. The TV weatherman, Connors, having probably practiced this before on other victims, launches into a full blown 65-word weather report ending with the snarky question, “Did you want to talk about the weather, or were you just making chit-chat?”

He intentionally embarrasses her just for the personal enjoyment of it. The exchange becomes the perfect definition of his character, or lack thereof, before learning the lesson of humility.

Equipped with his newfound humility, the later Phil Connors is everyone’s friend. He has not only demonstrated to others his appreciation for their presence in his life, but has contributed in many ways to their satisfaction, happiness, and well-being.

Everyone has witnessed someone who they’ve thought could benefit from a healthy dose of humility. The kind of people who always have a verbal come-back after someone remarks on having done something or been somewhere. No opportunity passes without them commenting on their own experiences. Only it usually is not just an, “I did that, too.” Typically, this person has done it bigger and better than you did it.

If you went up in a balloon, they went to a higher altitude. If you have a favorite pastime, they have already done that long ago. They have an, “I did it better,” for every subject you bring up.

They practice this without really realizing how obnoxious it is. In reality, they truly believe they are just being conversational. It all too quickly begins to reflect their own weak self-image. They fail to realize how they have turned the art of simple conversation into a contest–one they feel compelled to “win.” This, of corse, is the complete opposite to humility.

Winning this contest is rather nicely exemplified in an old joke. The story goes that a fellow goes off to college and returns after graduation only to be completely surprised at how much his parents have learned in the four years he has been away. He knows he has learned a lot, but lacks the humility to recognize that his parents may have already known much of what he has just learned.

Life is not about how much you have personally accomplished, as seen in the attitude of an immature Phil Connors. It is about how much you have contributed to the lives of others along the way. Only after you learn humility can you do this to the fullest extent.

Personal growth is a natural byproduct of service to others. As the immature Phil Connors eventually learned, in the face of your inherent drive for achievement and success, the best guardian of your self image, the best vehicle for promoting your own growth, is not a resume full of accomplishments. It is the humility to recognize your own limitations and the contributions that others have made to make your life better. Humility truly is the foundation of all other virtues.

Tips for Mastering Multi-Channel Communications in Your Campaigns

For an example of effective multi-channel communication in action, consider what happens after you send out a print item to a customer using direct mail. Logic dictates that you should wait a week or two and send a follow-up message, right? As you’ve already established contact, that follow-up doesn’t have to come in the form of another mailer sent to the customer’s mailbox. It can easily be an e-mail sent to the address for that customer you have on file. Suddenly, you’ve used not one, but two, different channels effectively, allowing the customer a full range of options regarding how and why they respond and continue their journey.

That may be simplifying the situation a bit, but the benefit to the consumer of getting full control over how they’re receiving and responding to your message is what multi-channel communications are all about.

Better Campaigns Mean Better Results

In order to master multi-channel marketing and really put it to good use for your organization, you’ll need to keep a few key things in mind. For starters, you’ll need to establish a single, unified view of your customers across all channels. Any available piece of information will need to be collated together, not only so that each channel seems like a natural extension of the next, but so each channel can allow for the deeper level of customization that attracts customers in the first place.

Another factor to consider has to do with your organization’s ability to create the most consistent experience possible across all of those channels at the same time. When a customer gets an e-mail, sees a mobile ad, and receives a letter in the mail from your campaign, they all need to feel like they’re coming from the same company. One can’t be casual, while the other, stuffy and overly professional. Failure to grasp this basic concept can result in your organization coming across as a bit schizophrenic.

You’ll also need to develop your own in-house multi-channel platform to help keep track of all of these materials. You’ll need things like campaign management software, for example, giving you the ability to execute all aspects of a campaign (including both print and digital materials) all from the same unified workflow. This will also give you a better idea of tweaks that you can be making to your campaign by way of things like predictive and actionable analytics.

Multi-channel communication, in general, just goes to show you that print and digital don’t have to be an “either/or” scenario for marketers. By leveraging all of the tools you have available to you instead of playing favorites, you’ll put you and your team in a much better position to succeed moving forward.

Expressions of Appreciation

“Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.”
– Dr. Christiane Northrup
Have you ever felt under-appreciated? It is unfortunately a common condition in our culture. But, we can do something to combat its ubiquity. Like so many negative influences in our lives, we can turn this around and reverse its influence by doing the exact opposite. Actions may speak louder than words, but some words can have an unforgettable impact. Appreciating the contributions of others and making that appreciation known to them, will not only inspire them, but it will also add remarkable value to your own life.

Expressing appreciation to others is such a simple act that it is frequently overlooked. The opportunity is ignored, or we let it pass on by without saying anything, simply because it might expose our inner self to others. We ignore the potential to connect with someone else in this way because it is easy to do. We take the easy path instead of the better one.

Especially in a job situation, expressed appreciation can make a tremendous difference in job satisfaction and employee productivity. Expressions of gratitude for a job task that was particularly well done shows the recipient that she has made a positive difference. She has contributed something of value to the business. This can have a marked impact on even the least productive employees, as they start to see the importance of their place in the scheme of things.

Some people seem to have a hard time even saying thank you. For them, expressing further appreciation may take a little more effort, but for most of us it is a fairly easy habit to develop. Make no mistake, it really is simply a habit to be kind enough to say thank you, and tell someone why you appreciate their contribution. Good habits like this are fortunately just as easy to develop as the bad ones.

To develop this altruistic habit, simply adjust your thinking to include at least three expressions of gratitude every day. Set this as a goal as you get out of bed. Search your morning for something to be grateful for and someone to thank for it.

I appreciate that you make breakfast for me every day. Thank you for your smile, it inspires me. I love the fact that you are so energetic so early in the day. I wish I didn’t have to go to work so I could spend the whole day with you.

Develop the habit. It’s easy. American philosopher and psychologist William James said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” Fulfilling that craving is not a difficult task, but to develop the habit of doing so may take an adjustment of attitude. We need to stop thinking of gratitude as an incidental byproduct of life and start thinking of it as a worldview. It will condition our responses to be more in line with the importance of this deep craving that all of us share.

All too easy to forget, these expressions of gratitude are very simple ways to get the most out of life by making others, as well as ourselves, feel better about our daily routines.

Staying Relevant in a Social World Means Embracing All It Has to Offer

Despite the fact that we’re well into the 21st century at this point, there are many businesses that are truly afraid of addressing exactly what that entails for whatever reason. It is not uncommon to meet a marketer that is still relying on the tried-but-true techniques of yesteryear, while at the same time turning a cold shoulder to the advancements of the last decade: namely, the social media-centric society in which we now live. If you distill the goal of marketing down to its most bare essentials, all professionals operate with the same end result in mind. Marketing is a quest to stay relevant. It’s a battle to keep a brand at the forefront of a customer’s mind and to engage with an audience in new and meaningful way. It’s an attempt to create a world in which the customer cannot fathom living without Product X or Service Y. In the 21st century, that means embracing social media and technology in general.

Social Media is Meaningful

By staying firmly ingrained in the techniques that have always worked in the past, the “old school” segment of the marketing population is forgetting that these new technologies bring with them a huge variety of advancements that can’t be ignored. For starters, social media eliminates much of the guesswork that marketers used to have to contend with. You no longer have to guess which conversations your customers are having and try to interject in any way that you can. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and other sites, you can literally see the conversation as it’s taking place. You don’t have to attempt to steer the conversation in a new direction to attract attention – you can attract attention by contributing meaningful content to something that is already taking place.

If a customer is having an issue with a particular product and posts about it on Twitter, a marketer is, at most, three mouse clicks away from solving that problem and creating a meaningful example of brand engagement at the same time. Social media also tears down the obstacle of geography, creating a world that is literally as large as it’s ever been but figuratively much smaller. Do you want to quickly get a message out to customers in Cleveland, Ohio? Filter Twitter accounts based on location and send away – they’ll receive it in seconds.

Most importantly, social media allows you to make use of one of the most widely used platforms for any type of activity in existence today – mobile. People spend a massive amount of time on their smartphones each day thanks to their ease-of-use, small size, convenience and more. You don’t have to fight for their attention anymore – if you’re putting the right content out in the world using the right social channels, you’ve already got their attention.

Social Media is Not a Replacement

One of the biggest misconceptions that the “old school” marketers have is that social technology, in general, is replacing the way things used to work. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The timeless, best practices that worked in the 50s and 60s still work today. They will always work. Social media and other digital marketing techniques are not a replacement to the techniques that you’ve always depended on, but a compliment to them. When used in conjunction with one another, they’re creating an environment where success is practically a guarantee.

A properly designed direct mail piece will be just as effective in 2025 as it was in 1975. If you also add a hashtag or a QR code or some other type of digital element to that mailer, however, you’re performing the most important task of all: You’ve given the customer an option regarding where and how they’d like to continue the conversation. You’ve included them in the process in a meaningful and organic way and, rest assured, they will thank you for it. That is what social media is all about.

How Introverts Thrive in Quiet

When we picture successful people, we tend to lean toward the extroverts — those who speak up more, get noticed more, and interact with others more than their introverted peers. But introverts have much to offer beneath their quieter demeanor, and they are more than wallflowers. They are not necessarily even shy.

Extroverts thrive on interaction with other people, which gives them the energy they need, and they tend to be restless when alone. Introverts, on the other hand, recharge through seclusion and tend not to be lonely when alone. An introvert may look forward to a quiet evening at home with the same zeal as an extrovert who anticipates an evening out with friends. The extrovert is geared toward activity, the introvert toward contemplation. They are both vital parts of the same world.

You may not realize that some of your close friends and family members are introverts. It doesn’t always show.

“I dream big and have audacious goals, and I see no contradiction between this and my quiet nature,” Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” writes on her website.

Cain, a former attorney and negotiations consultant, dropped out of corporate life to live a quieter life as a writer at home with her family. She describes the seven years of writing her best-selling book as “total bliss.”

“Quiet” was published in January, 2012. The following month, Cain left her blissful world momentarily to do a TED Talk, “The Power of Introverts.” To prepare, she joined Toastmasters, worked with TED’s speaking coach, and spent six days with an acting coach. Three months later, she wrote that she had become an “impossibly oxymoronic creature: the Public Introvert.”

That introvert aced her talk, which reached one million views faster than any other TED talk and now is ranked as the 12th-most viewed TED Talk of all time. It’s the favorite of Microsoft founder and multi-billionaire Bill Gates, himself an introvert who says one of the advantages of introversion is the ability to spend long periods of time thinking about a problem or concept.

Cain tells “Quiet” readers that Western society is dominated by what she calls the “Extrovert Ideal.”

“Introversion — along with its cousins – sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness — is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology,” she writes. Extroversion, she notes, “is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

Society really isn’t designed for the introvert. Children are encouraged to speak up, to get over “shyness,” to play well with others. Introverted teens may be considered antisocial or withdrawn. Adults in the workplace are often advised to be assertive, to join committees, to take leadership roles at work and in the community — in other words, to be productive members of society, or as Cain says, the Extrovert Ideal.

“But we make a grave mistake to embrace the Extrovert Ideal so unthinkingly,” Cain writes. “Some of our great ideas, art, and inventions — from the theory of evolution to Van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer — came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.”

In the quiet, introverts are in their element, momentarily removed from the world of the extrovert. They create art, solve business problems, and come up with great ideas. Businesses are wise to celebrate the introvert along with the extrovert. They are two sides to the same coin.