Do Good Ideas Always Work?

Do Good Ideas Always WorkThe mind is full of clever ideas. But few of them will actually work.

My friend John Young says, “A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. A wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid that mistake altogether.”

But not everyone who makes a mistake gains useful knowledge from the experience. The average person explains away their failure, forever unwilling to stare into the light and see that their sacred cow was just a cow.

Are you strong enough to see the truth and name it? Are you willing to identify the substance of your own mistakes? This humility is the key to progress.

This week a man told me the story of Betty Crocker cake mixes, the kind of story that marketing people love to tell: “Betty Crocker failed at first because all you had to do was add milk. Women didn’t buy it because they felt they would be cheating their families. So the company took the powdered egg out of the mix. Then, when women had to add both milk and egg, they felt like they were ‘cooking’ and the product began to sell.”

That person you see at the back of the room is me, holding up a little sign that says, “Piffle and Pooh.”

Assuming that the basic facts are true, what probably happened is that the original mix produced a bad cake; powdered eggs are never as good as real ones. The explanation that “Women didn’t feel like they were baking” is a romantic misinterpretation of the data.

People make these excuses because it’s hard to say, “Our product fell below the customer’s expectations.” It’s easier to say, “We ran into unforeseeable circumstances.” A cardboard weasel will go so far as to paint his failure the color of success by claiming, “We were ahead of our time.”

The problem with making excuses is that we convince ourselves they’re true, and in so doing, learn nothing. What we might have learned from the mistake is lost forever, buried under a pile of lies. And now history must repeat itself one more time.

The weasel who announced the cake mix failed because “Women are mysterious creatures” was not the last of his breed. This tendency to save face is why so few people who hold a job for ten years get ten years of experience. The average blame-shifter gets one year’s experience ten times. Don’t let this be you.

To learn things most people will never know, you must:

  1. Summon courage
  2. See clearly
  3. Swallow your pride.
  4. Speak the truth.

And be sure to run with the pacesetters, the risk-takers, the possibility thinkers, people who will try what’s never been done, hitters who keep their eye on the ball.

And never forget: Stay at the plate until you get a hit. You’re not out until you quit trying. (The three-strike rule applies only to baseball. This is the game of life.)

I’ve got a bat that will fit your hands perfectly.

Think you can find your way to Wizard Academy?

See you soon.

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