Friday, September 18, 2009

Mistake and Teamwork

Thomas Edison's first lightbulb which was used...Image via Wikipedia
One of the core values you need to update is regarding "mistake".

In school, you are taught that mistakes are bad. If you make enough mistakes, you FAIL the quiz/test/assignment/whatever.

That is NOT the way it works in the real world.

When it comes to mistakes, the famous people made a lot MORE mistakes than the average Joe. It was said that Thomas Edison (in reality, it's probably his team of inventors working for/with him) one THOUSAND tries to find the right filament material for his electric bulb that had the right qualities. Andrew Carnegie was once nicknamed "Dry Hole Carnegie" until he finally hit that one well that made it big and made his fortune.

Yet we are taught mistakes are bad. You are not supposed to make any mistakes. 100% is good. Any thing less is not as good. We marvel and admire any one who scores the full 1600 on the SAT test. We hold public tests of children and flunk them for making a single mistake (They are called spelling bees). We do the same for adults and air them on national TV ("Who wants to be a millionaire?") But is that really what we should learn?

The lesson what we *should* have learned is that one must LEARN from one's mistakes. Any attempt to blame others, blame circumstances, or in any way deny responsibility, is a waste of learning opportunity.

The example Mr. Kiyosaki gave was his failing English when he was 15. At first he blamed the teacher (who did share the blame, as he had failed half of the class, and gave D to several more). However, it took both of his "Dads" to show him that

* "Fail is a verb, not a noun. "

Failing ONCE does not mean you will always fail. It must means you should learn not to do it again. Some mistakes are more costly than others, but all have a lesson to be learned.

And a related statement

* Failure only lasts only as long as you want it to be

As long as you dwell on the failure, you ARE a failure. Learn from the failure, learn not to repeat it, and move on.

* "My banker never asks me for my report card" -- Rich Dad.

What this actually means is once you graduate from school, you are measured mainly by your financial well being, NOT your academics. People would whisper behind your back "His net worth is in the millions!". They won't whisper "He has a PhD!" (Well, maybe at a reunion... but only with the implication that "he earns a lot of money with that degree". )

* It is easier to change oneself than someone else

To borrow Mr. Kiyosaki's example, perhaps the teacher was grading too hard, but could one have mitigated the circumstances by studying a bit harder, a bit smarter, and be a bit more accommodating to the teacher's teaching style? It is certainly more productive than telling the teacher that his teaching style sucks, that he should seek a new line of work. :D

* Other people's opinion of you is NOT your true worth

Or to paraphrase Rich Dad (tm), normal people can't take much criticism, for they fear being ostracized. Thus, they choose to live normal / average lives. Great people learn to take a lot of criticism. Great people can do so because they hold core convictions that can withstand criticisms from naysayers. Only politicians seek "mass approval", IMHO, and entertainers.

While peer approval is a part of personal validation, it should not be a MAJOR component. Not only it distorts your principles, as you turn into some sort of popularity seeker, it also attracts yes-men that will further distort your principles, and leads to a vicious circle that's hard to get out of.

Or to put it another way: don't sink down to the level of your peers. Instead, rise up to the circle of prospective peers.

So what does this have to do with investment? You ask.

A mistake on investment will lose money. However, keep in mind that investment is like a gamble... You will win some, and you will lose some. However, in investments, you can mitigate the risk by exercising the various levels of control that an investment holds, such as research (For details, you'll have to consult Rich Dad's Guide to Investing). You can't do that in a gamble without cheating. The point is, a lot of people are afraid of investing in more volatile markets because they don't want to make a mistake. The problem is, frankly, doing nothing.

Yes, that's sort of a pun. You see, if you do nothing, you will never win. You may not lose much, but you will never win. And due to inflation, you DO LOSE if yo do nothing. If you just leave your money sitting there, it will be worth less and less if you just let it sit in CD and such that pays BELOW INFLATION. Thus, inaction means you have already lost. Remember Rich Dad's defintion of "financial loser"? Someone who cannot afford to lose. It *is* the literal truth.


Another thing schoole teaches you that no longer applies is is going solo. In school, you are told to go solo. You do work by yourself, you take tests by yourself. If you try to share, you are called a "cheater" with severe consequences.

In business, you NEED a team, as it's not possible to do everything yourself. (Well, you *could* try , but you may kill yourself doing so, work 120 hour weeks and that sort of thing, and you'll still miss something.) You hire employees, consultants, accountants, lawyers... and so on so you can concentrate on running a business. Even in a self-employed business, you still need lawyers and accountants. It's simply easier to outsource that sort of specialized knowledge to someone. REALLY big companies have a "board of directors", which are some of the best and brightest minds from OTHER companies that helps make the big decisions.

Even the professions you think are "loner" professions have teams.

Lawyers? Law firms have teams of attorneys. The big names have their surnames in the title of the firm. The junior attornies do most of the actual work, and then there are the paralegals and assistants and interns and others.

Doctors and dentists? They have assistants, accountants, office assistants, and so on. Surgeons need even bigger teams to do any serious work. They also need lawyers and insurance specialists (both for billing, and for buying malpractice insurance), and many work in professional groups and share facilities.

Sure in school you may get "group projects", but then, there are always three types of people in a group: leaders, doers, and slackers. :D

Leaders want to lead. if there are more than one leader in a group, they will butt heads until one establishes dominance. Then the other will likely retreat to become a slacker. :D If there were no leaders, either the teacher appoints one, or one of the doers will step up.

Doer just want to do. They enjoy being led by the nose. These are the people who read recipe books, and do things by formula. I am sure you folks are NOT that type. :D Maybe you used to be, but no longer.

Then there are the slackers. You know those. They latch onto a group and hope to get decent grades without actually doing any work. Some leaders can whip slackers into doers, but ineffective leaders can't, and that makes the rest of the team unhappy.

But I digress. The point is, they sure do NOT teach anything about "team management" or "synergy" or whatever the fancy word that is in vogue, in school. Yet you have to deal with that at work, almost from day one. Since a business almost ALWAYS involve some sort of a team.

How *do* you fit into a team and how do you build a team?

Perhaps you should go take a test. Find a bookstore and pick up "Strengthfinder 2.0", which is a book that contains an access code that lets you take an online test (and it takes a while allocate at least an hour) and in the end it'll tell you which of the personality types you exhibit, and what you seem to be good at, and what kind of people will complement you, what kind to avoid, and how to cooperate, and so on and so forth, customized for your personality profile(s).

Or you can join the military, like Mr. Kiyosaki did. You will learn leadership really quickly... Unless you're a "doer", in which case, you'll stay a grunt, and never make it to officer or even senior enlisted.

The point is... there are a LOT of things school does not teach you, and you need to learn before you can be successful in life. Simple hard work is simply NOT ENOUGH.

Books mentioned:

Rich Dad's Guide to Investing: What the Rich Invest in, That the Poor and the Middle Class Do Not!

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