To Move Forward, Look Backward
“Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves—their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.”– Peter F. Drucker
We’re down to the final two weeks of 2022. That means just two more editions of the TwentyPercenter before 2023. This week, the call to action is to turn your experiences into insights. Next week, I’ll share the most powerful habit I’ve found to kickstart your year.
In 2014, I read Peter Drucker’s short classic, Managing Oneself. My main takeaway was the power of reflection. Drucker’s advice to young leaders was to journal their goals and expectations at the beginning of the day. And then revisit them each evening to evaluate how you did and how you felt about it. Over time, he shared, you will come to know what you love, what work you should avoid, where your talents lie, and maybe even discover your core values.
High achievers spend a lot of time thinking about the future and acting in the present. While that’s a great recipe for accomplishment, it’s a poor path to wisdom. Drucker made this point clearly, but the lesson didn’t stick for me. It was only later when I thought I’d missed out on millions that I learned the value of reflection.
For five years, I got to play a part in a small private equity firm. Our CEO, Mitch, declined to invest in an investment I’d recommended. I was disappointed at the time but soon moved on. A few years later, the company sold for a purported $2 billion to IBM. I texted the lucky founder congrats and went to Mitch to share the news. I’m almost 100% sure I didn’t actually say the words, “I told you so.” Almost 100%.
Mitch grabbed a journal off his shelf saying, “I write down why I make an investment and why I turn it down. Let’s see what I was thinking at the time.” He found his notes on the company. He then rattled off a half dozen specific reasons for declining the investment. I was stunned. He’d made the right call at the time. We’d just been unlucky. He explained that while he knew he would never have a perfect investment record, he kept the journal to help him improve. He revisited his past decisions whenever he got new information on the deals that passed his desk. His goal was to learn from his mistakes and get smarter over time.
After that, I started using my weekly goal-setting time for this purpose. I look back at the goals I set the prior week and my results. I ask how I did, how I feel about it and what I should do differently. Each week, hopefully, I’m getting a little smarter, a bit wiser. My coaches along the way hold me accountable to this process. I also spend a few hours each month looking back on what I’ve done and trying to draw a few lessons. These learnings get written down and sometimes shared in this newsletter!
Here’s your call to action, TwentyPercenters! Block at least two hours this week to reflect on 2022. Answer these questions:
- What did I accomplish?
- What challenges did I face?
- Where did I fail and what did I learn?
- Who supports me and helps me grow?
- What relationships are missing from my world?
- When is enough, enough?
- What do I fear?
- What brings meaning to my life?
- Who am I becoming?
Even if you do this just once a year, you’ll be richly rewarded. Author Ed Mylett compares reflection to “bullet time” in The Matrix. Bullet time is the groundbreaking scene where the hero, Neo, slows time and calmly dodges a barrage of enemy fire. When you reflect, you get to rewind time, relive it in slow motion, and extract all the lessons your experience has to offer.
I may have lost millions on that missed opportunity, but I gained a million-dollar habit that has proved far more valuable in the long run.
One question to ponder in your thinking time: How can I glean insights from my experiences to grow personally and professionally?
Make an Impact!