Harness the Mistakes You Survived

upset dudeCan I admit it? I made a mistake recently, didn’t you? Maybe it was a mistake of omission or commission. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you made it, survived it and can use it now. These mistakes are living proof that you can, and have, survived awkward, embarrassing or inappropriate moments. You’ll survive them again in the future, that is, unless you’ve decided to become perfect and eliminate all this human stuff.

When it comes to networking and job search activities, requiring us to speak up or act, there’s often reluctance and delayed action. We wait for the “ideal” time to call someone. At an opportune moment to participate, we say nothing because we couldn’t be sure we’d say something perfectly. We don’t introduce ourselves to someone at a networking event or a party or a meeting for fear of not doing it “right”.

In an effort to do all these things “right”, we hesitate and to back to reading about and talking about doing things rather than doing them. Just look at our shelves that are filled with management books from when we’re employed and career books when we’re in search mode. And they’re all helpful, to a point.

All this thought work can lead to an adult learning disability that I affectionately call “learning encumbered”. You’ve heard the term “learning disabled”. Well, now there’s “learning encumbered”. People with learning disabilities are often unable to take in and interpret information of various kinds. “Learning encumbered” people are just the opposite. They are unable to STOP taking in information. They get so bogged down with reading about it and talking about it and thinking about it that they delay DOING it.

This is a form of procrastination often born of perfectionism. And this is where our social mistakes can help us. We survived them. Most of them are so insignificant as to be hard to recall. We need to remind ourselves of that right before we get ready to take action on a goal that is a bit worrisome or socially challenging. And then we need to practice “thought pushing”. The thoughts about and mental images of the anticipated failure or embarrassment need to be pushed to the next scene in that mental movie.

Let’s take the act of making a phone call to a new networking partner to whom you’ve been introduced. Since you can’t know how things are going to work out, any of your negative thoughts about making the call are just projections that you push into your mind. This means you would be equally justified in pushing a successful image or scenario into your mind too.

Try it. Imagine the person actually answering the phone and being receptive and complimented by the fact that you called him. He’s gracious and quite pleased that you asked for his perspective and a meeting where you can discuss relevant industry issues and trends.

The meeting results in an introduction to two new people who are knowledgeable about your area of work interests. Your network is growing. Your knowledge is increasing and now new people potentially see you as knowledgeable and conversant in an area of business that could help them get real work accomplished.

Was pushing that scenario into your mind any less reasonable than the unsuccessful scenario that you invented? Don’t send yourself back into thinking and reading about networking instead of making the call. You’ll survive a fumbled word or an awkward sentence, but more importantly, you can push the image of a successful networking call into the “movie theater of your mind” and show that scenario a few times?

BruceHazenheadshotsmBruce Hazen, MS
Three Questions Consulting
Bruce is a career and management coach working with professionals who are at career crossroads and wanting answers and action strategies for one or more of The Three Career Questions:

1. When is it time to move up?
2. When is it time to move out?
3. When is it time to adapt my style for greater success?


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