Success has little to teach you after age 30, at that point you only learn from your failures – I learned that from Franciscan Priest and writer Richard Rohr and have found it to be true for me yet even when it comes to failures I’m a slow learner.
In a number of ways Rory McIlroy, who shattered all kinds of records last weekend when he won the US Open golf tournament, is precocious. He learned a lot from his experience at the Master’s tournament two months ago.
Rory was in the lead going into the final nine holes of the Masters and fell apart (oh, did I feel his pain or what!). Golf analysts said that, no matter what he accomplished next, Rory would forever be remember for that. I don’t hear that from the media after his performance at The Open. Yet, I’m not sure it would be a bad thing to remember Rory for his flubs and for his turnaround.
Great leaders, like all great performers make honest assessments of their performance and learn from their failures. In an interview during The Open, Rory said what he learned from his experience at the Masters’ was to stop over-thinking his strategy. At Augusta he was concentrating on whether to play aggressively or conservatively. His focus on his performance relative to other players was a distraction. At The Open Rory focused only playing the best he could, not worrying about his competition.
It could be that Rory’s failure at the Master’s set him up for moving to the next level of his game (of course with golf you never know what is short-lived versus sustainable; this could be Rory’s peak but I doubt it).
I was on the phone yesterday with an old client wrestling with some depression. He could not let himself off the hook for an error he made a couple of weeks ago. I respect his commitment to take responsibility for his actions but it’s time to move on. My coaching was to learn from what happened, acknowledge the error and stop beating yourself up. When he learns from his errors, is able to affirm himself and applies his learning to his next challenge, his performance will increase and his depression will lift.
Here’s a shift: use your past errors as information that’s useful to learn from, not ammunition for self-criticism. Look forward to your next mistake, it’s a great learning opportunity.