Learning From A Personal Failure

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In this video, I want to share a personal failing I once had, in the hopes that it might help you. I felt awful about this for a long time. Let me describe what happened.

Everybody who has gone through our business development training program, GrowBIG, knows that we like to measure things. One of the most important things about measurement is that you have to measure the most important things, even if you must be a little bit subjective in your measurement.

In other words, I would rather have you measure the right thing subjectively than the wrong things accurately.

That’s really important. One thing I have measured for years is the number of Most Important Things (MITs) I get done on a weekly basis. Most Important Things are the couple things per week, especially around business development, that I need to prioritize to feel like it was a successful week.

I raise or lower the intensity of those MITs based on the other things I have going on that week. For example, how much time can I spend on business development based on travel, delivery work, and all kinds of other things I have going on? I raise or lower them, and I track if I get them done or not by the end of the week. I’ve done this for years.

When I first started, I tallied up my weekly number of MITs I completed. I was always excited. I was tallying them up every quarter, so I had done a whole quarter of either doing them or not, measuring them on a weekly basis. I would enter them into a spreadsheet, because that is the best way for me to remember if I actually do the work. I enter it in, tally the results, and analyze them to see what had happened and how I was doing.

Man, I was completely embarrassed. I got two-thirds. When you rounded it, it was exactly 67%. I’ll never forget it. I only got 67% of those big important things done that I had committed myself to do. I had only gotten two-thirds of them done. In school, back in the 60s, a score like that got an F. I felt like in this environment, that was like an F-. That was unacceptable. I was mad at myself. I had to dig into the data a little bit and go back to those weekly reports that I was doing. I had to go back and see what the issue was. Was I not focused? Did I just not do the things I wanted to do? Did I not try hard? What the heck happened? I could not make sense of it.

As I dug in, I realized my error was not because I was not working hard enough, or not trying, but rather, I was picking too many things to accomplish.

I had one week where I attempted 15 MITs. Fifteen! These are supposed to be big hairy things to attempt in a week. They are the most important pieces I had to get done, and I picked 15. I only managed to get six of those done. Well, no wonder I ended up with only two-thirds for the whole quarter! I had weeks I was doing nine, some weeks I was doing two. I was all over the place.

I was trying to do too many things, so here is what I did. The next quarter, after that low point, I made myself to commit to only three MITs a week.

Now they had to be the three most important, the things that were going to move the needle. I limited myself to three, and that really forced me to think, “What are the top three?” And because it was three, I could easily memorize it. I would remember on Thursday, even without looking back, each of the big things I was trying to move forward.

I would focus on them Monday morning, trying to get them out of the way early or at least have started on all three. I would start to sweat on Wednesday if I only had two of the three done. With three, it really drove my focus.

At the end of that quarter, I got 95% of my MITs done, and I celebrated like crazy.

I told myself, “Okay, that was a good quarter. That was good.” I am not saying that you have to choose three MITs or MITs even have to be things that you measure, but the point of this is that when we measure things, it provides an accuracy that we can either be happy or mad about. It never lets us stray too far from our mission when it comes to business development.

Measurement is really important. You never know what you are going to learn, but you will learn something if you measure. It is from those highs and those lows that you can keep improving at a craft like business development.

So I hope this story helped you. As always with these videos, we are trying to help you help your client succeed, and I hope you enjoyed this one.