The Unconventional CEO – It is far easier to learn from your mistakes than from your successes

The Unconventional CEO

Chapter 67 – When evaluating a success or failure, consider the source. Was it because of your efforts, or in spite of them?

Few of my peers can distinguish their own PR from reality as far as their success is concerned. Often their wives have a better story to tell about it. Experience is the name we give to our mistakes. We fret and dissect, regret and admonish ourselves to never repeat the same mistake again. Success is alluded to and rewarded. Its origins are generally kept a mystery.  There is no pressure on the superstar that did the impossible to come clean about his real method.

The claim that something was easy to accomplish is always easily swallowed. We applaud the modest “Aw, shucks!” response of the victor. Proper analysis of which factors triggered each of the succeeding steps is almost never done as a rule. It is as if the magic spell will be broken when the luck is understood.

However, such analyses are vital and must be embarrassingly candid. This is not easy, but then we are not cheerleaders. We are engineers who must measure and test; coaches who need the slow replay; and judges of what elements of the confluence between what the customer wanted and what the enterprise offered gelled at the exact right moment.

You may be shocked at how often things happen in spite of our best efforts, not necessary because of them. The hot buttons of every customer remain mysterious – even after we have accidently bumped them in the right order. Most customers cannot give a cogent and rational explanation of exactly when and why the buying decision was reached  and when it was – the order in which the fireworks went off.

Learning is a difficult process. Often things we already know must be un-learned, to allow the new ideas to spread like ivy up the tree of knowledge. The same rambler may be pulled down shortly and plan C then promoted as the newest, latest solution. And so on. A beginner’s mindset is a necessity if you want to make sense of the irrational and uninformed random walks.

Learn from your outcomes, whether they are successes or otherwise. Cultivate an ongoing appreciation of the multi-pronged attack and where Pareto often weaves its magic. This will become your enterprise’s intellectual property. How you persuaded the customer to trust you.


The Unconventional CEO offers succinct, compelling advice from one successful CEO Mario Pretorius, to you The Cape Messenger reader.

The book is also available to purchase in full from the Amazon store.

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