Mistake Maximizer

This week’s trek is inspired by the work of Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. In their book, Designing Your Life, they focus on the importance of reframing your failures to gain new insight into how you can improve your performance. 

Does the thought of making a mistake make you want to run and hide?

When you mess up on a presentation, miss a friend's birthday, or tank a meeting it's often tempting to just forget about the mistake and assume you'll get it right next time.

While that approach can be effective at times, it can also completely stagnate your ability to learn from your mishaps and find opportunities for growth. 

Introducing Your Mistake Maximizer Exercise

What It Is
A 5-10 minute exercise that helps you assess your mistakes or failures, extract insights for new learning, and create a better approach for next time.

Why We Love It 
It isn't fun to rehash situations where we didn't put our best foot forward. This exercise provides an easy way to categorize your mess-ups so you only spend precious energy fixing areas that are truly worth the investment.

How It Works
1. Set aside 5-10 minutes to reflect on some of your most recent mess-ups. As you reflect on each, list them out in the first column of this doc.

2. Once you've listed them, categorize each into one of three buckets:

  • A. Screwups: These are "simple mistakes" that don't normally trip you up. There isn't a major learning opportunity here because you usually get it right; you just happened to mess up. Example: I interrupted a client in a meeting which I almost never do. I owned up to it and am not worried it'll become a habit.
  • B. Weaknesses: These are "mistakes you make over and over that you try to avoid doing, but they happen." You've accepted that they're a part of who you are and you have worked on managing them. Example: I procrastinated again and had to work all night to meet a deadline. This is just how I work and, while it's not ideal, there isn't more to learn here.
  • C. Growth Opportunities: These are "mistakes that don't need to happen next time because the cause is identifiable and a fix is available." More specifically, these failures offer a true opportunity for growth. Example: I was surprised to learn that a client I know well and have worked with for years wasn't happy with a deliverable. When I take a step back, I can see that I didn't manage client expectations well.

3. Take a few minutes to examine the items in C above. Ask yourself:
- Where might there be room for improvement?

- How might the circumstances surrounding this error require me to see things in a new way?
- What went wrong and what could I do differently next time? 

4. Review your responses in 3 above and develop an insight about what you could have done differently to get to a better result. Then, try that out next time you're in a similar situation and note how things went. 

Source: Designing Your Life

Want to dig deeper into this topic?
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Here's what your fellow trekkers have to say about past treks:

"The What's Your Tutu? exercise couldn't have come at a better time. I've always had a hard time showing emotion in romantic relationships, so it's helpful for me to to check in with these questions after a date." 
Beebe Xia, Copywriter and Single Lady
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Shankar Desai