The Past Does Not Equal The Future

Terri Lonier

Ask soloists about their biggest achievements, and chances are high that they'll pause for a few moments and struggle to come up with one or two accomplishments -- along with qualifiers such as "But it didn't turn out quite the way I wanted..." or "It was OK, but I was hoping for more...."

But ask about their biggest mistakes, and -- whew! -- the floodgates open. A laundry list of painful stumbles, costly oversights, and other business failings is effortlessly recounted. Soloists learn by trial and error, and the lessons come from errors that aren't quickly forgotten.

Lately I've been thinking, however, that some mistakes hang around haunting soloists longer than they should. Sometimes a mistake is so painful that we can't see past it, and it influences decision-making situations long after the event is over.

The past does not equal the future. If you've made a business mistake in the past -- and who hasn't? -- and it still pains you, take a clear-headed look at how it's influencing your present, and future. Are you too quickly saying, "I'll never [fill in the blank]" to a situation that's related to a past business stumble? If so, you may be cutting yourself off from important growth areas for your business, and yourself. Just because you stumbled once doesn't mean the next time you encounter a similar situation it will trip you up again.

Some companies actually build a 20% factor for mistakes into their annual budgets. It gives them the freedom to be wildly experimental and to try innovative strategies, realizing that there likely will be mistakes that they'll have to clean up along the way. Because the other 80% is such a productive payoff, they don't mind paying the 20% premium for screwups.

While your solo budget may not have that much cushion for error, it's important to realize that mistakes are part of a learning curve. And if you're not learning, then your solo business surely will fail.

The past is past. Use it, learn from it, but don't let it hang around cluttering your psyche longer than it needs to. There are always new things to discover -- and new mistakes to be made!

Publisher: Terri Lonier, author of the "Working Solo" series and president of Working Solo, Inc., strategic advisor to companies targeting the SOHO (small office/home office) market and individuals who want to grow a successful solo business. We create the SOHO Connection(TM). Contact us at:

Working Solo is a registered trademark, and The Frugal Entrepreneur, SOHO Connection, the Business Gym, and the Personal Pathfinder Program are trademarks of Terri Lonier. All other trademarks are the property of their respective holders.

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