Of success and failure – What I’ve learnt from 2019

Five years ago, I made by resolution a commitment to life-long learning that continues to define me today. My first step was to undertake and complete an MBA, specialising in a previously unknown to me area of innovation management while in my late 30s. From the inspiration I drew from these courses and others, I was able to take a brave and bold step into the new world of self-employment.

I have performed in generalist roles for more than half my career. Still, nothing prepared me for the massive mental shift starting a company could be, especially coming from circa 20 years employed at a global enterprise.

Year in review: The Good and the bad of it

Understandably, it is perhaps more social to share stories of success. Little is read about failures until they become so spectacular that they are the pursuit of every media house (enter We Work IPO as a fantastic example). As a business owner and a coach, I take strength from being able to look at the year critically and highlight the main areas that demonstrate strengths, and those that need work. Come on this journey with me, and you are welcome to share your stories as well in your comments!

I got the big picture right, but some of the detail wrong

One of my goals for 2019 was to establish a robust network of partnerships, where we can enjoy with our partners mutual opportunities for collaboration and shared value where we find them. To this end, I sought out and made connections with businesses and individuals who do work that I admire. The strategy has allowed our company to begin a collaboration that will result in a white paper and laid a strong foundation to build on for the future.

However, I played the strategy too safe by:

  1. Not allocating sufficient time to make the right volume of meaningful encounters that will enhance said network
  2. We have not invested enough time in building those meaningful relationships founded on shared values, attitudes and beliefs around collaboration.

In the coming year, we aim to raise the roof on this, embracing the growing collaboration economy.

Thinking Big 

The belief in our skills and our offer convinced us it was time to make the massive leap of starting this business. To that end, we have plotted and executed many steps at building our credibility, including our website and blog, our social media footprint, and our work with direct clients.  

On my part, however, I moved into self-employment with the identical mentality with which I approached corporate life. I sought perfection before facing my would-be assessors, attempting to mitigate all of the risks beforehand. So instead of immediately engaging in experiences to build my knowledge, I’ve focused heavily on skill-building behind the scenes, to be sure of my abilities.

The learning is to expand my view and my appetite to risk.

Dorie Clark, HBR contributor and top 50 business thinker, wrote an article in 2014 based on the work of Michael Port, one of the world’s most recognised coaches on public speaking and business. In his book, The Think Big Manifesto, he encourages us to let go of self-imposed limitations using four strategies:

  1. Getting comfortable with discomfort – be prepared to be daring, risking an encounter with either great success or significant failure. My corporate career did not give me the bandwidth to truly learn either.
  2. Setting the right kind of goals – The landscape outside of your comfort zone has two ranges. One is the zone of stretch, the other, the zone of panic. You want to push yourself just within the boundary of the stretch zone regularly. By doing so, that zone will continuously expand, without you ever having to step outside of it.
  3. Finding supportive peer networks – you want to surround yourself with people who both recognise and understand what you are doing, and who can challenge you to improve.
  4. Become the person others want to help – This requires standing by your commitments and being open and responsive to feedback. We must be insatiably curious; drawing lessons and inspiration from within and outside of our usual circles.

2019 has been a year of radical transformation for my professional life, and I am confident the journey has only just begun.

I look forward to taking the good, the bad and the lessons ahead as I prepare to refine for 2020 and beyond!