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No More Excuses! 13 Strategies for Turning Mistakes Into Results

Everyone has reasons why things didn't work the way they planned. So what is the best way to turn experiences into wisdom — and action?

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No matter how prepared you are or how carefully you thought ahead, there are times when things simply don’t go your way. Maybe you planned a get together, and then accidentally insulted a friend in the process. Maybe you forgot to do something important, and are now scrambling to fix the problem, or maybe you’re simply dwelling on regrets.

As you face the aftermath, you can come up with every reason in the book for why things ended up as they did, but brooding over events won’t change the outcome — or help you move forward.

Common wisdom dictates that you should find the lessons in your mistakes and failures. While this is a good first step, it’s equally important to act on those lessons, in order to grow from the experience. To help, members of Young Entrepreneur Council recommend keeping the following in mind:

1. Fail Fast and as Cheaply as Possible

Experimentation is everything. Experimentation means learning what works and what doesn’t work. Don’t waste time and capital on what doesn’t work. Fail fast and as cheaply as possible. Accept the mistakes, find out the reason and start working again. Then, you’re in a position to quickly pivot. – Liam Martin, TimeDoctor.com

2. Look for the Lesson

A problem will never go away until it teaches us its lesson. A failure with no lesson will be repeated, but with unemotional self-assessment and implemented methods from solicited feedback, failures turn into big wins. As a professional speaker, I solicit quantitative and qualitative feedback from the audience, and I try to watch myself speaking on video so I can correct mistakes and improve. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic

3. Don’t Deflect

When things don’t work out as planned, there are two potential reactions: deflect or internalize. Deflection will not lead to real learning. It is important to reflect deeply on what went wrong and try to understand what could have been done differently so you can be more successful if and when a similar situation arises. Feel the pain and think through how that pain can be avoided the next time. – Adam Mendler, Beverly Hills Chairs

4. Focus on What’s in Your Control

Many times when we have excuses, it’s because something is outside of our control. Don’t let that stop you. Focus on what you can control. If you are waiting for someone to complete a project, let them or your project manager know. With good communication and a can-do attitude, almost anything is possible. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

5. Try Again

When I was a teenager, I worked for an apparel store that had a quote from Tom Hopkins posted on the break room door. It sums up the necessity of failing: “I am I not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed; and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying.” – Dalia MacPhee, DALIA MACPHEE

6. Take the Story Off Repeat

When things go wrong or when excuses pop up, it’s easy for them to create stories that play on repeat in your mind. The first step is to notice the story that you are telling yourself. The second step is to recognize that the story isn’t true or that even if it is true, that it can be changed. The third step is to actually change your thoughts. This is where “can’ts” turn into “cans.” – Alexandra Lozano, Ally Lozano LLC

7. Share Your Experience to Help Others

You have the ability to create the outcomes you want to result from each experience. Instead of sulking, the best way to turn excuses into solid, positive results is to share your experience with others. – Ania Rodriguez, Key Lime Interactive.com

8. Contextualize Failure

Follow a clear process for reviewing what happened (without assigning blame). Make a point to look at how similar projects have failed or succeeded. That context will let you assess solutions more effectively when you start future projects. Furthermore, you may find ways to solve that problem for others. – Thursday Bram, The Responsible Communication Style Guide

9. Own the Experience

Don’t make excuses. Take ownership of challenging or difficult experiences. Take the time to analyze where things could have been done differently. Be transparent about the problems when sharing why things went awry, but come prepared with how things will be different moving forward. How you recover from a misstep will often be how you’re remembered. – Jessica Gibson, Ariel Precision Medicine

10. Figure Out How You Got Here

When things don’t go as per plan, there is no point in letting excuses get the better of you. Instead, you should try to interpret your experiences in a different light. Your beliefs work in shaping your future, so if you feel you are good enough, the belief will translate into your reality. Instead of wondering why something happened to you, determine what you did to get there in the first place. – Derek Robinson, Top Notch Dezigns

11. Look at the Failure as a Stepping Stone

Instead of trying to justify a failure, view it as an essential step towards success. Your failures along your journey will become wisdom gained. Making excuses may protect you from your fear of failure, but accepting your failures as valuable experience will lead you to bigger and better things. – Angela Pan, Ashley Chloe

12. Approach Obstacles with a Growth Hacking Mindset

Being scrappy is a great way to describe the growth hacking mindset. Instead of waiting years for a new way of doing things, look for ways that you can inexpensively and quickly start to implement positive change. You don’t have to wait until the company has a bunch of money. There’s a lot of free tools and resources in this day and age. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

13. Stay Focused and Just Keep Going

There is no point in lingering on a problem and why something happened a certain way. Instead just focus on the best solution and you will be able to move on from the problem a lot faster. When you point fingers or look for ways around it or who to blame, it just prolongs the process. You can move on to bigger better battles when you keep your goals in mind and focus on a single solution. – Sweta Patel, Silicon Valley Startup Marketing

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