I have done some stupid things in my life. Take the time my buddy and I hailed a cab after a football game in Cleveland. As the taxi driver pulled away, we told him where we were going. The driver drove around the block, dropped us off right where we started, charged us ten bucks, and said, “You were already here! You should pay attention to where you are going before you leave next time.”
The best way to avoid mistakes in the future is to learn from the ones in the past. While education may not guarantee success, it can help point you in the right direction.
And there is more to educating yourself than just learning from past mistakes. As the CEO of six companies, I have spent a significant amount of time networking with others outside our companies.
I can say with confidence that this has served me well throughout my career. Over the years I have trained myself by following these keys to success:
Self-improvement: If you visit my office, you will find shelves full of self-improvements books. On my iPhone, I have several audiobooks downloaded. I listen to my favorites over and over again. I do not just collect these books; I study and apply the knowledge to my own life. I know that I cannot help my employees, my customers, or anyone else if I do not help myself first.
Business articles and books: While most people spend hours sitting in front of the television or staring at their smartphone, I am working or studying how to make our businesses successful. I do not believe I can build world class businesses while spending most of my time in small town Waterford, Ohio. Therefore, I am constantly flying from one place to another. On these flights I observe people passing their time reading thriller, mystery, or fiction books. Others watch movies on their iPad. At the same time, I am catching up on email, writing contractor tips, or studying business strategies. For me, reading is not about entertainment, it is about improvement and growth. I especially like to read about situations related to our current circumstances or difficulties our companies may be facing. Learning from the mistakes of others has saved me a lot of time and money over the years.
It is a common practice of mine to spend the night before a company meeting studying how other business leaders have successfully navigated situations like ours. Then, when I arrive at my meeting the next day, I lay out my plan where I feel confident about our direction. I bet some in the meetings think I am a genius. However, the fact is that the decision I just made was based on something I learned not long before the meeting.
Industry gatherings and seminars: I attend industry conventions and use them to network. To me, it is all about building and maintaining professional relationships. These connections increase the visibility of our businesses and allow me to engage with other business leaders and share industry insights. These meetings also allow me to stay abreast of industry trends.
Roundtable groups: I am a member of several roundtable business groups. For many years, I was a member of Vistage, and my companies are members of three different Family Business Institute construction groups as well as George Hedley’s Hard Hat Presentation group.
These industry groups meet twice a year and share best practices. We also benchmark our companies against one another to see how we can help each other grow our companies. It requires a lot of traveling, but our companies are the beneficiaries of learning from other business leaders.
Coaches: I have always used coaches to help guide my future decisions. I choose each one based on their experience. My criteria when selecting a coach is that they have successfully managed a company that surpasses the current state of my businesses. The education I gain from their experience helps me make my next moves.
Helping others: Not long ago, I was helping another businessman with his goals when he asked why I spend so much time helping others. I explained to him that helping others is good for my soul. It is my way of giving back to a world that has been so good to me. I find it incredibly gratifying to know that others value my advice while learning from my experiences.
When someone texts, emails, or calls me to share how they have professionally benefitted from one of my articles or conversations, I have yet to find a person who is not interested in helping me in return. When I add it all up, they help me more than I am helping them.
Making mistakes: While I am huge on reading books, studying and learning from others, there are some things you cannot learn without taking chances and experiencing it yourself. In fact, I am the best in the world at making mistakes. I have struck out more than most. However, I have swung the bat so many more times that I was bound to hit the ball every once in a while.
So, what are you going to do that will help move you from where you are today, to where you want to be tomorrow? Have you signed up for training, a seminar, or an industry group? Are you reading any technical publications or listening to any audiobooks or podcasts on your phone? Pick one and take the next step toward getting your career, not to mention your taxi, on the right path.