One of my favourite books is Nightfall by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg. The setup for the sorry is an old astronomy professor who has won his planet’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize for proving that the six suns in his solar system would never set on his planet at the same time. And night couldn’t fall.
And then his students did some calculations and realized he was wrong, and for a time every few thousand years there would be night.
They didn’t want to tell him thinking it would ruin his life’s work and leave him feeling dejected and worthless.
He got angry with them because he didn’t want to miss the chance to learn something new, and the thrill of discovery had the opposite effect to what the students expected and renewed his enthusiasm in the subject.
I’m not a Nobel winner by a long shot, but the professor’s attitude embodies the way I want to work. Doing the same thing and thinking there’s nothing left to learn would demotivate me.
I love mentoring because I love learning.
When I build a team, I want people who aren’t afraid to tell me I’m wrong, when I am, because that’s what makes the team stronger. I know not everyone is confident at this at first but if I can find people who are confident in their opinions, my job is to nurture that.
If I’m not being challenged, I’m not learning. I know my experience has helped me get where I am, but I need to know where me and my team are going.
Tasks for you
If you are a leader or a mentor, embrace the opportunity to learn that you get from being wrong. Be vulnerable, sometimes, so that everyone knows it’s ok to be wrong, if you acknowledge it and make amends. Keep learning.
If you’re not, embrace your mistakes. (Link – my mistake) Next time you find yourself in that position, you’ll call it experience. Learn by doing as well as by reading. The most interesting challenges you’ll face won’t have a manual. Keep learning.
Don’t let your career go dark.