From the Errors of Others

“From the errors of others, a wise man corrects his own.”

—Publilius Syrus, ancient Syrian writer

QC #906

A highly notable technique to support personal growth and development is to encourage people to embrace failure. When we fail, we have the opportunity to pick up experiential lessons from the event.

Today’s quote, however, suggests that not all lessons need to occur from our own failures, setbacks, and stumbles. All we need do is pay particular attention to the misadventures of those around us. From them, we can glean additional nuggets of knowledge and wisdom.

Given the fact that there is only one of you, and so many people in your personal and professional worlds, the odds favor the open and receptive mind in picking up a higher proportion of lessons this way.


Where and in what ways can you use the errors of others to pursue greater success and mastery throughout your day?

“Fall in love with the problem…”

“Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.”

—Kaaren Hanson, VP of Design /Innovations/ Intuit

QC #853

Through the course of our lives, we have all developed strategies for success which we apply to the daily challenges we face in our professional and personal worlds.

As long as these default solutions work reasonably well, we rarely seek alternative solutions that may actually work far better.

When we embrace, and even fall in love with, the problems we face, we generate a higher ability for innovation and creativity, discovering possible solutions that were previously unrecognized.


How might falling in love with your problems help you release some of the “sacred cow solutions” you have used over the years? What new and potentially more successful solutions would be possible?

“I’m no longer sure what the question is…”

“I’m no longer sure what the question is, but I do know that that answer is ‘Yes.’”

—Leonard Bernstein, American composer, conductor, author, and pianist

Photo from Flickr by Valerie Everett

Photo from Flickr by Valerie Everett

One of my favorite and longest standing clients – a man named Stephen – was recently on vacation. This may not ordinarily be remarkable except that he and his family were in Antarctica. On Facebook he posted the ultimate “Ice Bucket Challenge,” by jumping into the frigid waters of the Antarctic Ocean.

How many of us would have said “Yes” to such an experience?

Stephen and I have worked together for 19 years. I admire and respect his “Yes!” attitude and intention to be fully alive.


Examine the opportunities that lie in front of you today, professionally and personally. Where would saying “Yes” and leaping into your own life waters help you live an even more extraordinary life?

Consider picking up a copy of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, to explore the writings of Donald Miller,  another individual who chose to say “Yes.”

“Don’t cut strings….”

“Don’t cut strings when you can untie knots.”

-Indian Proverb

Photo from Flickr

Photo from Flickr

When I think of cutting strings, I think of the times in my life I broke off a relationship or quit a project, where I might have been frustrated or unsuccessful.

Untying a knot, on the other hand, reminds me of times I was actively engaged in solving a particular problem or simplifying a complex matter.


Explore your professional and personal life issues to determine if they truly require a pair of scissors. How could a set of patient and diligent fingers reconcile or resolve selective challenges you are facing?

“Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems.”

“Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems.”

– René Descartes, French Philosopher and Writer

Photo from Flickr by William Warby

Photo from Flickr by William Warby

There is no such thing as an “overnight success,” but there is a formula to become one. Before you argue the inherent contradiction in that statement, consider this:

An “overnight success” is the result of the journey of personal mastery, which is built on continuous self-improvement gained through experiential learning over considerable time. The “formula” IS the journey, which demonstrates itself through the phenomenal capacities we achieve beyond those of our previous selves.


Envision the simple, ordinary, and daily problems you are solving today. How might they be the beginning or early stages of your journey of personal mastery, in some aspect of your professional or personal life?

“There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem and a concerned person solves a problem.”

“There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem and a concerned person solves a problem.”

—Harold Stephens, American Author


Image from Flickr by Debs

Have you ever watched a mouse racing around one of those circular wheels, never getting anywhere? They run and run and always end up in the same place. Alternatively, think about running on a treadmill. We get all worked up and sweaty, but find ourselves in the same place.

Worry is like that. In this case, the treadmills are in our minds. Concern, on the other hand, seems to have more of a mobilizing quality that takes us out of our heads and off those treadmills so we can set out on a journey to an eventual solution.


Where would a shift from worry to concern mobilize your thoughts and actions toward a successful solution in some important professional or personal issue today?


“How do I work? I grope.”

“How do I work? I grope.”

– Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist

How about that? A man many consider synonymous with the term “genius” admits to pursuing his work in a non-linear and haphazard way.

Perhaps this groping was part of his genius. Maybe square pegs and round holes can fit in some way if we simply grope around to take more frequent quantum leaps in how we solve problems.


Select an issue or challenge you are currently facing and set up a “groping” session instead of a general brainstorming session.

Play with possibilities as if you were from another world where playfulness, novelty, and experimentation were the only objectives.

“You cannot dream yourself into a character…”

“You cannot dream yourself into a character, you must hammer and forge yourself into one.”

– James Anthony Froude, English historian

QC #1021a

Image from Flickr by Hans Splinter

We sometimes hope for a quick-fix that will resolve our problems, and dream of how our future lives would look.  If only we could find that magic bullet!

Dreaming is important, as is having a vision. But neither comes to pass without the work it takes to realize our dreams.

The great leaders and people of our time had dreams and shared their visions. To realize those visions, though, they all worked hard, and put in tremendous effort over many years. These people of character have the bumps, bruises and calluses to show for it.

Here is a secret: Find something of extraordinary value and meaning in your life. Pursue something you truly love to do, and you will enjoy the process.


What do you envision and dream about that would be worth a lifetime of hard labor?