How Mistakes Can Vastly Improve Your Business And Life

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If there is anything I’ve learned in my personal and professional life, it’s that most people have an extraordinarily difficult time admitting when they’re wrong. I know this because I’ve witnessed hundreds of awkward confrontations in the work place, at school, among family and with friends, where someone takes a hard stance on something and even after they are clearly proven wrong, they simply cannot bring themselves to openly admit their mistake. For many of us – it just isn’t easy to fess up to our mistakes. We have this innate desire to stick to our guns and fight to the death to defend our position. Once we’ve laid our pride and dignity on the line, admitting to a mistake is just too much to lose. After being proven wrong about many of my own ideas and assumptions over the past 30 years, I honestly can’t say I’m any different. I usually feel quite confident about the things I do and it takes a pretty cataclysmic event (followed by a lot of soul searching) for me to openly admit that I was wrong about something.

I don’t know about you – but whenever I discover that I’ve made a bad investment, hired the wrong person to do a job, assigned blame to the wrong party or been careless with my resources – it feels terrible…  in fact, it might even be the worst feeling I know.

“Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation.” – Mark Twain

Coming to the realization that you’ve made a mistake is an awful, gut-wrenching experience, but this kind of realization (and admission) is also one of the most important things you can do for your personal development as a human being. Dealing with the consequences of your errors can be incredibly miserable, but it also has the power to teach you some exceedingly valuable lessons that oftentimes just can’t be learned any other way. When I look back at the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life, a great deal of them came about because I had screwed something upbig time and somehow I found the strength to recognize it, admit it, and consciously establish what I needed to start doing differently. The beauty of it is – when I finally got through the anxiety that came along with this process, I was able to look back and see that what appeared to be a near-death experience had actually instilled some life-changing lessons deep within my psyche that had the power to forever improve the way I live. Take a look at these insights from Kathryn Schulz on Being Wrong:

The subject of “failure” is a relatively unpopular thing to talk about among real estate investors and to be honest, it’s a shame. These are some of the biggest lessons we’ll ever learn – so why is it that so few of us are willing to admit (or even drop hints) that we’ve made some bad decisions, terrible investments, or been careless with our time and money? What better way to learn than to identify what doesn’t work?? As unpopular as it is for us to swallow our pride and openly talk about these things, mistakes are always being made. You’ve made them, I’ve made them, and somewhere in our lives, most of us are probably in the process of making them right now (whether we realize it or not).

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Why Is It Important To Recognize When We’re Wrong?

There are a lot of important things I’ve learned through the recognition and admission of my mistakes. When we realize and quickly admit to ourselves and/or to our colleagues that we are guilty of error, we have the power to defuse arguments, show reserve, relieve the pressure of being perceived as “perfect” and in time, this kind of humility will command respect from others. The most successful entrepreneurs in the world get things wrong all the time. What makes them successful ISN’T the fact that they’ve made mistakes. It’s the fact that they’ve known how to recognize those mistakes and change their behavior going forward.

“Success if a pile of failure you are standing on.” – Dave Ramsey

If you want to be successful in your real estate business, don’t be afraid to acknowledge when you’re wrong. In fact – you should be searching for opportunities to find your mistakes and be prepared to admit them promptly when they come up. If you’re going to fail big, do it early and get caught as soon as possible. It’s better to experience this kind of pain on the front end of your learning experience than to go through years of your life making the wrong decisions, only to realize the error of your ways after irreparable damage has been done. As crazy as it sounds, when you learn recognize failure for what it is (an opportunity to become better, smarter, wiser, stronger, etc.) you may even learn to embrace criticism, because “being wrong” has the power to serve you very well in life if you know how to respond to it.

How To Openly Acknowledge Mistakes

I realize it’s not naturally intuitive for us to admit our mistakes. Most of us hate it more than anything, so we haven’t developed a healthy internal mechanism for dealing with these issues (and if we’re honest, they come up pretty frequently). It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve learned a few key phrases to use when I’m admitting my mistakes. They allow me to rethink, regroup, and approach the subject later in a more enlightened and intelligent way. Here are three examples:

1. “You’ve got some valid arguments and I understand where you’re coming from. I wasn’t fully aware of this information when I took my initial stance on this issue.”

2. “I realize now that I may not have considered all of the consequences when I made this decision. Thank you for helping me identify the gaps in my thinking.”

3. “I’m hearing you and I can see now that I was wrong. What can I do to correct this in the future?”

The act of admitting our errors doesn’t need to be difficult. Most of us make it a lot more complicated than it needs to be because we can’t get over our pride and acknowledge the unpleasant reality that we don’t know everything. Trust me, the people who live the most successful and fulfilling lives know how to embrace failure… and why shouldn’t they? If we’re talking about real, honest-to-goodness mistakes – we don’t need to feel ashamed of them (after all, we did the best we could with the information we had)! It’s simply a matter of seeing failure for what it is – and opportunity for course-correcting. Being wrong is a blessing in disguise for those who know how to use it to their advantage. Being wrong allows us grow as people and ultimately, make the world a better place. Think about it – if everybody had the courage to immediately embrace their failures and learn from their mistakes (rather than denying their existence) – how much better off would the world be?

Photo Credit: marfis75

About Author

Seth Williams

Seth Williams (@retipsterseth , G+) is an experienced land investor, commercial real estate banker and residential income property owner. He is also the Founder of - a real estate investing blog providing real world guidance for part time real estate investors.


  1. Brandon Turner

    Great post, Seth! I look forward to having you as a blogger. The depth and honesty in your posts will really resonate with our readers!

    Thanks for being part of the team! Welcome to the family 🙂

    Also – awesome TED talk. I love those things.

  2. Welcome seth. Great topic. The amount we can learn from searching for our mistakes is incredible. At the same time the amount of damage we can do justifying how we are right can be even more destructive.

    P.s. that wasn’t a very good comedian!!! 😉

  3. I agree that it’s very tough for folks to admit when they’ve made a mistake. Sometimes, though, it’s tough to recognize that there was a mistake in the first place. Should I have bought that house where I lost money? Should I have married my college boyfriend instead of waiting until I was 35 to get married? Questions like this don’t always have clear-cut yes or no answers.

    That said, there is a lot to be learned from doing a “lessons learned” review in this business to see how we can improve our processes, and deals that didn’t go as well as expected are a big part of that review.

    • Thanks for commenting Alison – I appreciate you taking the time to think about this topic and share. I understand where you’re coming from. It seems like some mistakes (if you can even call them that) just have to be made – we simply don’t have the prior knowledge to avoid them in the first place. I think it’s more a matter of weighing the consequences of our actions and drawing some conclusions about whether our original decisions were the right ones, and if we need to change any of our assumptions as we move forward.

  4. Seth, Thanks for the insightful post. Many years ago, I found Dr. Jack Matson’s concept of Intelligent Fast Failure, which encourages learning from your failures. Coupled with your post, failure can be an important tool for growth.

  5. Great post!

    I love this quote, “Coming to the realization that you’ve made a mistake is an awful, gut-wrenching experience, but this kind of realization (and admission) is also one of the most important things you can do for your personal development as a human being.”

    I am sharing!

  6. anthony cecchini on

    Great post and video. I am pretty sure I have this Internal “always correct syndrome” how do i know I have it? I KNOW I HAVE IT CUZ IM NOT WRONG.” haha just kidding. great post, thanks 🙂

  7. I HATE being wrong!
    I really work hard to think things through, to study every aspect to make sure I understand what the right move is, and will try to qualify things as much as I can to not take a definitive stance unless I fell pretty much 100% sure I am totally correct.

    This fault kept me form taking action in my business too long and even since getting over the hump has clearly help me back from taking some reasonable risks that in hindsight would have been great moves.

    Trying to work on taking action and failing fast, figuring it out and moving forward.
    One thing I do think I am good at is admitting I am wrong when it is clear I did make a mistake and just moving on with life.
    As much as I hate being wrong I see no point in belaboring it once I know I am and just attracting more attention to it.

    Nothing is worse than wasting the opportunity to learn from a perfectly good mistake!

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