Learning from others mistakes

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about learning from others and I wanted to share some thoughts.

Anyone can learn through experience. The trick to avoiding the same pitfalls that befall others is learning from their experiences.

You can only learn by doing

You can’t truly know anything without experiencing it – which means you’ll probably still make the same mistakes. This is also why it’s so hard to learn from others mistakes.

Despite continually reading and having many mentors in different areas of my life I still mistakes they warn me against. But, by investing that time learning and reflecting on my own life I’ve learned how to identify when I’m making mistakes much faster.

I try to apply the same process to my own clients by asking them questions:

Who do you know that is further down the same path you are on (5,10, or even 20 years ahead of you)?

  1. What mistakes did they make and what was the consequence?
  2. How can you identify if you’re making the same mistake?
  3. How did they move past those mistakes?

The goal of ‘learning from others’ isn’t to avoid making the same mistakes; you’ll probably still make them. But, when you’re not blind to the symptoms and consequences you’ll identify when you’re making mistakes faster, and you can mitigate the gravity of the consequences of continuing down the same path.

Don’t avoid difficulty

You shouldn’t avoid difficulty or making mistakes. Just think about the most fulfilling things you’ve done in your life. Now, list the hardest things you’ve ever done. The lists probably match up perfectly.

Difficulty provides purpose and purpose feeds happiness and fulfillment.

However, difficulty doesn’t mean making stupid, easily predictable mistakes. If you learn to identify when you’re heading down a path with unwanted consequences so you can correct course, and continue with desired difficulties instead of dealing with unwanted or unnecessary difficulties.

To wrap it up, here is my formula for learning from others:

1 – Seek difficult but meaningful challenges.

2 – Look for others who went before you and identify the major pitfalls that befell them and write down the signs and symptoms that you’re making the same mistake.

3 – Pay attention to signs that you’re making the same mistake and correct course.