This Impressive Motto Will Keep You From Living in the Past


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The other day, a young entrepreneur asked me for help with his newly acquired business: “We raised a million and a half in capital six months ago and have been meeting to strategize, but haven’t yet launched our product and don’t have much of a marketing plan. What should we do?”

I was shocked. Where was the sense of urgency? Not to say that a CEO should go out and make a financial-altering decision in 24 hours, but it certainly can’t take six months.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking we always have another opportunity down the road to fix something we could have fixed today, but CEOs don’t have that luxury. We have to make tough decisions and can’t procrastinate. Our teams, employees, and clients all deserve better. Sometimes we screw up, but we own it and move on. Our problems are in the past, but solving them is what we can do today.

“Yesterday never happened, and tomorrow never will.”

I have this saying written on my mirror: A reminder to abide by that philosophy every single day because I tell everyone else they should, too. Here’s why:

Related: You Tried and You Failed. Here’s How to Rebound.

Accept reality

Reality is not something we can manifest into being. All we have is the six inches in front of our faces — each moment is a gift to make the most of. Instead of pushing off problems to solve for another time, we must deal with what we can now. Let’s say I notice the doorknob of my office is loose. I have two choices: I can go in and out that door every day, feel that door knob jiggle, telling myself I’ll fix it tomorrow until one day, it just falls off, and I have to pay a professional to do the job for me. Or, I can just fix the damn doorknob! Pushing problems off for later lets them grow into more significant problems that become harder — and more expensive — to solve.

Instead, leaders must accept failure as an opportunity to learn, improve and grow. We often get entrenched in finding a solution to fix some overarching problem in one fell swoop. Still, most problems require multiple steps to solve, which means the potential for multiple failures along the way. A CEO whose company is having financial issues can’t just walk into the bank and get a check that day. They need to prepare presentations, performance, forecasts and financial statements. They may develop potential solutions as a team, but leaders have to make the final decisions and take the credit or the fall: the risk and the rewards.

Anything worth growing — from a business to a relationship — requires hard work and a big effort, more than just 100%. This constant drive for growth brings a greater chance of failure, but failure is how we learn. We make a mistake and focus on creating a better path that avoids repeating them. When we put in that work, instead of loss, failure creates focus: We realize what not to do next time, what approach not to take, or the conversation not to have. Finding solutions will automatically relieve worries about past mistakes, and approaching them with a contingency plan the next time will help you get through them faster.

Related: How to Escape From the Prison of Negative Thinking

Encourage solutions

Many businesses fail because they become complacent and stop finding ways to solve more problems. Everyone remembers when Netflix offered to sell to Blockbuster, but the CEO thought the idea would never work. At the time, Blockbuster’s impressive office and well-dressed executives were doing well enough with what they had. It can be so easy to fall into that trap of stagnation. But now, no one wants to be a Blockbuster.

Every week, I invite my executives for a meeting where they bring up problems, but I tell them they better also come prepared with ways to solve them. I surround myself with people who are smarter than me, so I know I can stay out of their way, let them do their job and hold them accountable. But to garner that trust, I had to give them that leeway to come up with solutions, let them fail and allow them to fix the problem. Solving problems is how you continue to grow yourself and your organization, and we develop leaders by encouraging team members to look for solutions.

Related: Let Go of These 10 Things and Start Making Better, Faster Decisions

Don’t dwell

When solving a problem, I would give my employees the same advice I would give to my children: You can’t fix what happened to you yesterday, so don’t dwell on it. Should we mourn what we lose? Absolutely. But living in the past is a disservice to you and everyone around you. No matter what we undertake — a relationship or business — we fail every single time when dwelling becomes a pattern.

Dwelling is probably the worst thing an entrepreneur can do. At the end of the day, the buck stops at an organization’s leader. When we get caught up in the minutiae of what we did or said wrong, we stop relying on ourselves to be able to fix it in the future. The minute we start dwelling on yesterday’s mistakes is when we stop coming up with solutions today. Leaders need to be the tip of the spear leading in every single moment, not its tail. We stop leading, and everyone stops following. In leadership, there’s no time for self-pity.

When facing failure, instead of choosing to feel sorry for yourself, accept that it happened and nothing can change that. This allows you to refocus your efforts on learning how not to fail again the next time. Be quick to act, but make informed decisions, understand the consequences, and be able to take responsibility when things go wrong because they will. Focus on what you can resolve right now, take action, and admit when you mess up so you can find a better way to do things next time.




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