Embrace Your Mistakes

by Shannon Todd-Olson
IBM Business Analytics and Optimization Service Line Leader
Latin America
Global Business Services

Shannon Todd-Olson

Shannon Todd-Olson

Dear Shannon,
If only the chance to do it all over again. But honestly, I am not sure that there is so much to be said for the “opportunity to do it all over again”. The reality is that there is something to be said for the mistakes we make along the way. They build your character and I would not advise avoiding too many of them.

At a Women in Technology International conference years ago, I remember one single moment from the entire conference. In one of the presentations, the woman who was speaking was giving a few key points of advice. The only one I remember to this day was “fail early and fail big”. The whole audience initially was visibly surprised and I was right there with them. I am not someone who likes to fail and nor had I grown up with this as an official objective in my life. And so I really struggled with this advice. After months of mulling it over, I finally started to embrace the explanation she shared with us all that day. She was asking us to take enough risks when we were young in our careers so that we would fail occasionally. Her message was that this would teach us to stretch just past our boundaries and in the process, be able to achieve breakthrough thinking and truly significant accomplishments. However, most importantly, it would teach us how to survive a failure and come back stronger. Her theory was that if you avoid failure for too many years, you grow risk adverse, you limit your creativity, and you struggle much harder to pick yourself back up when the inevitable failure catches up with you.
So given all that, the very few bits of advice that I would pass onto you…

  • Always remember that people matter most
  • Spend less time cranking out work and spend more time with your teammates
  • Give yourself “worst case scenarios” to help yourself realize that even the worst case is not always so bad
  • Buy a hotel chain since you will spend the next 15 years supporting them financially
  • Know that none of those emergency landings are going to take you down.
  • And finally……………….

  • Fail early and fail big
, With hope for the best in your future.<

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