I often wonder who the first food tasters were and how they knew what was poisonous and what wasn’t. Maybe this is why there are so few real innovators because being the first to do something can be scary and sometimes dangerous. We like to know that someone else has been through the trial and error first before we decide to jump in.
I was in the grocery store today looking up at the eggs on the shelf and a woman leaned over and said “Be careful”. She pointed at the ground to a pile of egg yolks with a big footprint in it. “I learned the hard way”, she said, “I almost slipped and broke my neck”.
The first thing I thought was what a tragedy it would be to break your neck on a pile of egg yolks in the grocery store. Not skiing the Alps or drag racing at 150 miles an hour, but in the egg aisle at Ralph’s.
The next thing I thought was how grateful I was to that lady for saving my life, or at least saving me from the humiliation of flying headfirst into a carton of eggs.
This is the same way you should look at others who have made business mistakes that could save you time, effort, money and heartache. They’ve been through the learning curve so you don’t have to. They’ve carved a path through the jungle to make it easier for you.
I just got back from San Diego where I put on a seminar called Speaker Sponsorship 101 with the San Diego Speaker’s Guild. The opening guest was Brian Smith, the founder of Ugg Boots. Brian spoke about his journey of being a lone entrepreneur with a cool product that nobody had ever heard of. Sales were pretty low for a number of years and he went through a huge learning curve until something finally hit. It was a ton of trial and error. He’s now sharing that knowledge with up and coming entrepreneurs, so they can avoid the same mistakes he made.
My part was the speaker sponsorship, and I too, had a big learning curve. It took many years to learn exactly how to perfect the sponsorship process. I started out as a naive kid doing sponsorship for a TV pilot and progressed to using sponsorship for my own projects, including public speaking. It took years of trial and error to discover what worked and what didn’t.
Then the panel at the end was Rick Itzkowich, Maureen Orey, and Jan Jones, moderated by Vicki Garcia. Each shared their path and what it took to get there, mistakes and all.
You can always learn something from those who have gone before you. Learning about the mistakes is just as important, if not more important, than the successes. The next time you talk to someone who has been where you want to go, ask them about their biggest mistakes and what they learned from them. They may just save you from stepping on a pile of broken eggs.