24/03/2014 11:35 GMT | Updated 24/05/2014 06:59 BST

Success in Life and Business Rule #1: Learn From Mistakes

As a kid I was always out looking for adventure and trying new things. When I came home with stories of falling off my bike, my den in the woods collapsing or the fish that got away, my Dad, who is a huge inspiration always used to say, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again". But, as a piece of advice, that did not arm me with the tools to make a success of it. It did make me a more persistent person, but I persisted in repeating the same mistake several times.

Later in life I realised that a better piece of advice would be "If at first you don't succeed, ask yourself, "Why not?", and then decide what to do next" There are numerous reasons that your business idea or initiative may have failed. All those reasons will be as a result of some mistake on your part, but the important aspect to identify is "What exactly did I do wrong?"

In 2014 of course it is not really politically acceptable to assume that it was me that made a mistake. It is always someone else's fault; the bank mis-sold the endowment policy, the credit card company mis-sold the payment protection insurance, the council should have stopped me building on a flood plain, MacDonald's is to blame for my obesity and so on.

Sorry, it is about time we all took some responsibility for our own mistakes because if we don't recognise the real cause of our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. Or we throw out the baby with the bathwater and give up.

Use the formula

Performance =Skill + Will over Environment

Performance is success or failure (or the relative amount of each) that you achieved.

Skill is the actual technique, materials etc. that you chose to use

Will is the amount of effort that you put in to the activity

Environment is the other things such as the economy, the competition, peer pressure etc.

It is tempting to put every one of our failures down entirely to the environmental factors....they are not our fault:

• Yes, Wonga is to blame for my out-of-control debts!

• is responsible for my gambling addiction! Which I will blog about in more detail in the very near future. I owe the Gamblers Anonymous fellowship so much.

• Customers are responsible for not buying my product or service!

It is really important at this stage to reflect on your own contribution to the mistake. Did anyone hold a gun to your head when you went online and gambled your house on the turn of a card? No, it was your own choice! Temptation was there but did you resist it?


I manage people who sell; some who don't succeed put their failure down to the poor economy. So how come their colleagues are succeeding? Some ascribe their failure to a lack of sales skill; this can be taught, so they can succeed if they learn. A few actually accept that it is their will that is lacking; this may be laziness, in which case "try, try again" may be the solution. Or it may be that they simply dislike the thought of being seen as pushy or of being labelled as a "salesperson"; they are never going to succeed in the role!

There is an old Arab proverb:

A fool makes mistakes and doesn't learn.A man makes mistakes and learns from his mistakes.

So we all make mistakes; behind every great entrepreneur there is a stream of failed businesses, epic mistakes and missed opportunities. The people who succeed, whether in business, marriage or sport, are the ones who recognise their mistakes, recognise their contribution to them and do something about it and make the next road a successful one. Then they try again and get it right!

This blog will also go live on my official Jack Kershaw website

Thanks for reading

Jack Kershaw