Posts Tagged ‘lessons’

Learning from failure

Friday, July 8th, 2016


I set out last week to walk the Ridgeway, it starts in Avebury and I was walking to Whipsnade, about 100 miles.  It wasn’t my first long distance path, but it was the first time I was doing it camping and carrying a big pack.  Despite some careful thought and planning I still ended up with a bag that weighed 35 lbs or more, and I have to say that it turned the whole thing into more of an endurance challenge than an exploration of the English countryside.  West Ilsley

After 3 days, 40 miles and little sleep thanks to a rather noisy road and very strong winds, I decided to bail.  After all, it had been an experiment to see if this version of long distance walking worked for me and I had concluded that it absolutely did not!  Once you know that something isn’t working that’s a good time to stop, reassess options and strategies and find out what might work.  It is common in these times of macho leadership, to assert one is right and cling to one’s decisions as a sign of strength. However, a much better example of courageous leadership is Eddie Jones, England’s rugby coach, who twice on the last successful tour of England in Australia pulled off players after only 30 minutes (which was pretty much unprecedented) and radically altered the outcomes of the games. 

It would have been nice to have achieved my goal of getting there, but actually that was a subordinate one to finding a new way to enjoy something I’d found hugely rewarding in the past.  Edison, apparently tried thousands of different things as filaments in his new electric light bulb, and each time he encountered one more that failed, he felt he was narrowing in on the one the that would work by eliminating another thing that didn’t. 

So perhaps in this success obsessed culture, we need to find ways to learn from failures.  Maybe, despite the fact that most experts and world leaders seem to feel that Brexit was a horrendous mistake, we can find a way to make it work for us… I pray we can!

What the Gatso can teach us about Change

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

It is 20 years since these yellow Cyclopes were introduced to make our roads a safer place.  Well they have changed the way we drive but what have they achieved?  Roger Reynolds was the policeman in charge of the initial project, and he thinks “It’s a fiasco now”.

The first one was located on the A316, a road I know well.  It has a 40mph limit, but is a fast dual carriageway.  Initially, the cameras were set to only trip at 60mph and to curb the worst excesses.  The initial trial was set up on the Thames bridge and it recorded 22,939 drivers travelling at more than 65mph in 22 days.  The public were happy to support the initiative at this kind of level. 

One camera became 750 in the London area.  In 2000 600,000 motorists were caught, by 2007 it was 1,800,000!  At this level the fines were worth over £100m, and this began to change the focus.  As motorists grew used to them, the fines fell, and in order to maintain the money-flow, the trigger speeds were turned down from 40mph to 32mph!  In one spot on the M11 southbound one camera netted over £500k, but caused more accidents than before!

The public no longer supported this secret tax on motorists and guerrilla groups even began sabotaging them.  In 2007 the grant to local authorities for these cameras was cut and they were quick to realise that their electorate would prefer their taxes to be spent on other things and they were cut back once more.  Mr Reynolds, still believes they are a good safety tool but feels the way they have been used is wrong.

It isn’t enough to have a good tool, you have to use it in the right way if you are going to keep people on your side.  People have an innate sense of fairness and if you go against this you will loose their support.

“It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it..”  Banarama

My Twitter Lessons .. No 4 (Content is King)

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Once you have your account, and have some folks who are ‘tuning in’ you then need to start the real business of actually saying something, because, of course, your followers are unlikely to stick around if you either say nothing or broadcast rubbish.  It seems to me that the favourite content areas are:-

  • Quotes:  This is a little thought for the day, usually from the great and the good, and related to your subject (e.g. CHANGE: When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. – Victor Frankl)
  • Links:  People forward links to relevant articles, blogs etc; these can things you have written, or ones you have found that are related to your area (e.g. Six Ways that #Google Wave is Going to Change Your Business, Career and Life
  • Pictures:  A picture is worth a thousand words and using something like Twitpic you can post a photo.  This should either be relevant to your area of expertise, but seems to me to offer a chance to show a little of the ‘real’ you (e.g. HERE, a relaxed moment in the garden)

There is a balance to be struck between the business & the personal messages you send out.  I know folks who take the view that they will only send out very focused business messages.  On the other hand, others say that you need people to know you before they like you, so you have to go in for a little disclosure.  Of course, you can have multiple accounts but for me this is just too much at this stage (although I have grabbed a couple of names related to my work).

Happy Twittering.  You can follow me on @RichardDerwentC

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My Twitter Lessons .. No 3 (Twitter Tools)

Monday, June 8th, 2009

There are all sorts of applications to help you with Twitter (Google gives you 46m hits for Twitter Top Tools!).  They can do all sorts of things and one big tip is to do this search and read through what people recommend.  One of my issues was I had no idea what to even look for!

So here is my list of useful apps:-

  • Twitterberry: this enables me to tweet from my blackberry and given that it is meant to be instant and local this is really useful.  Imagine you find yourself in town with 30 minutes to kill, you can tweet to see if anyone is free for a coffee.  There are other apps for the iphone and smart phones.  Here is a useful list 
  • Twitpic: this allows you to upload photos from your camera phone by emailing them to twitpic, so people can see what you are looking at
  • Tweetdeck: this gives you a desktop app to help you handle your tweets, store your searches and gives you minute-by-minute updates (but beware it can be a real time waster!)
  • Tweet Later:  this does a whole load of clever tricks, including auto-following people who follow you, and auto-unfollowing too!  It can send automated messages to folks who choose to follow you and a whole lot more
  • Twitter Search
  • Other Resources:  Someone else’s top 40 list

Armed with this list you can manage your activities on Twitter both on your PC and on your phone.

You can follow me on @RichardDerwentC

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My Twitter Lessons .. No2 (Next Steps)

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

So the next step in my journey having dipped a couple more toes in the water, was to realise that if I went to the profile of someone very active in the field I was interested (in my case Change) and looked at who they were following (on the basis that they might be of interest to me too) and took a punt on following a load of them.  Many people use automated tools to help them handle twitter (more of these in another lesson), so there is a reasonable chance a fair number will automatically follow you back.  This gives you a chance to see who they are and what they offer, to engage them and share your ideas.  If you don’t like their offerings, it is just as easy to unfollow them (effectively turning off their broadcast to you.)

The next really important thing I learnt was how to use the search function.  You can search for:-

  • Things going on in your area
  • Or places you are visiting
  • Subjects that interest you
  • Specific people

You can also use something called hash tags, which is a phrase prefixed by #, and this enables you to make your content easily found by others with similar interests.  Ecademy used this feature last week for its #twalk (search for it and see!)

These three things enable you to find other people who share your interests, and this gives you an opportunity to link across cyberspace with strangers who could become friends or partners.

Happy tweeting, and remember you’ll never learn to dance if you don’t go to the ball!

You can follow me on @RichardDerwentC

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My Twitter Lessons .. No1 (Getting Started)

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

I make no claims to being an expert but hopefully my toddler steps may help some others to learn from my journey.

I’ve had a twitter account for about a year, but I frankly didn’t get it.  Why would I want to be  inundated with the minutiae of other people’s lives? And I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to hear about mine!  I spent most of last year getting to grips with the secrets of ordinary blogging and it took up most of my online time, so micro-blogging seemed just a step too far.

However, I kept hearing from people whose opinion I respect that Twitter was important… I started dipping my toe in the ‘twater’ and it was a little like going to a party where everyone else was dancing a set of steps that I didn’t know. 

I then slowly realised that Twitter was a bit like your own personal broadcasting system, enabling you to share small snippets of information and thoughts.  However, it is pointless having the world’s best broadcasting kit if no one has any radios that are tuned to your station! 

So for this system to work you have to gain followers.  How do you do that?  You start by following others (in other words, do as you would be done by!).  If you are smart you will choose people who you are interested in; they can be personalities, colleagues, friends, people who share your interests.  So the first step of this dance is you will start receiving their ‘tweets’.  If you have chosen wisely these will contain bits that interest you and that you can respond to…. now the dance has begun.  You will soon find some of these people start following you.  Now you have some ‘radios’ tuned to your station.

If you want them to keep reading you need to add some value.  You have to be one or all of the following:-

  • Interesting
  • Yourself
  • Genuine
  • Useful
  • Funny
  • Helpful
  • Provocative
  • Newsworthy

I went on an Ecademy event this week that taught us more about this and one of the ‘secrets’ was that you gain currency by what you do for others rather just broadcasting your stuff.  This builds goodwill and hopefully they will reciprocate and start recommending your content to their followers.  Simple mathematics shows that if you have 200 followers and they each have 200 followers then potentially if they all forward (Retweet) your content to their followers your tweet suddenly has an audience of 40,000!  That is a powerful way to build a reputation and make some new relationships.  There is a random quality in this process that can being a little magic into your life.

Happy tweeting!

You can follow me on @RichardDerwentC

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Friday, March 20th, 2009

I was listening to the chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, talking about the lessons he had learnt from adversity.  He was saying that when he stopped asking “Why me?” and changed his question to “What should I learn from this?” he found he could move on in his life.

We all make mistakes; we all have things happen to us that try & challenge us, but many of us get stuck in feeling a victim, or battered by fate.  Asking “What can I learn from this?” is much more empowering response. 

It is not necessarily a case of Life seeking to teach us lessons, but rather creating a space for an inner dialogue which allows our inner voice to speak to us.  Rabbi Sacks felt that he heard God’s voice in this; I think it is okay  to interpret this howsoever works for you.  The power of the process works.

Whether in your personal or business life, take the time to learn from your mistakes.  Of course, if you are smart, you will also learn from the mistakes of others too!  Bon Chance!

“The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.”  Edward Phelps

“If a mistake is not a stepping stone, it is a mistake.”  Eli Siegel

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Change is inevitable….. (except from a vending machine!)

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

This captures the feeling that the Universe conspires to shaft us where Change is concerned.  We are ‘tricked’ into a series of changes we never chose and would prefer not to be wrestling with.  I guess there might be a some truth in this, in as much as we never chose some of the macro-events that shape our world, but by-and-large, we get the changes we need for our journey.

So if that great big vending machine in the sky has short-changed you today, perhaps you need to be asking “What can I learn from this?”  I don’t know about you but when I get to the other side of something difficult I usually feel that the race has been worth the candle.

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”  Anais Nin

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”  Andy Warhol

A five step plan to save you £5,000,000,000,000

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Apparently the various world governments have now invested £5 trillion in propping up the banking system. That is a huge amount to invest in failure. I’m not suggesting that it isn’t required but would suggest that is worth pausing to consider that it isn’t only governments that can invest in failure, we all can. So often, when we have made a mistake, rather than seeking to learn from it and so avoid it in future, we can find ourselves justifying our actions, defending them and feeling that it “wasn’t our fault”, so we don’t need to change!

If you find yourself today, drifting down this path, STOP!

  1. Accept that we all make mistakes
  2. Forgive yourself
  3. Ask what can you learn from this
  4. Ask what steps you can take to ensure that you don’t need to find yourself here again
  5. Move on!


“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”

More unforeseen consequences

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Edward Jenner moved to rural Gloucester and heard a local saying “If you want a wife unscarred by smallpox, marry a milkmaid!” Smallpox was then a killer with around 400,000 a year dying in Europe alone and leaving survivors horribly scarred. Milkmaids were exposed to cowpox, a related disease and in May 1796 he took some of the product of a dairymaid’s fresh lesions and inoculated an 8 year old boy. This was the world’s first vaccine, so called because of the Latin word vacca meaning cow. By 1977 small pox was erradiated.

Sometimes good things can come out of seemingly bad events. Literally millions of lives were saved as a result of this one girl’s disease. You never know what the consequences of today’s problems maybe. As I have mentioned before, the Universe is very economical with its inputs and a single event can spawn many outcomes. When we fight and rail against what is going on, we cause all manner of turbulence in our lives. Sometimes fighting may be appropriate, but often it is more fruitful to look for the positive outcome or avenue to explore.

So today, if things are not going smoothly for you, perhaps you might ask “What is this trying to tell me?” You might be surprised by how eloquent the Universe can be…

“The moment you commit and quit holding back, all sorts of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance will rise up to help you”