Sometimes we need to make mistakes to learn from them, or not (as Garfield would say).Â Sometimes, we can learn from the mistakes of others.Â This is actually a nice way to go.Â And with that, I thought Iâ€™d offer myself as â€œexampleâ€ of mistakes not to make.Â
Some background.Â I was working in Korea (the first time back in 1988-89) when my company transferred me to San Francisco for a 5 week training session.Â At the end of the session, â€œthe powers that beâ€ decided that I would benefit from working with a stateside subsidiary, this one being in Los Angeles.Â I went to Los Angeles and began my brief stint there as one of the district managers before leaving the company.Â
I made choices at every step that ensured that my time in Los Angeles would be short, very short.Â Avoidable mistakes!Â Job killing mistakes!Â Had I responded with maturity and humility, perhaps I would still be there, or not.Â Â Â
The root cause of my quick departure can be best summed up by Proverbs 16:18, â€œPride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.â€Â
I was a young and had an unshakeable belief that I would one day, â€œrule the world.â€Â And in my late twenties, I ran â€“ in theory â€“ all of Asia for my division.Â It was exciting.Â One week I was in Manila, or heading to Yokahama and a week in Guam.Â I was staying in 5 star hotels and racking up the frequent flyer miles.Â
Whatâ€™s the saying, pride before the fall?Â Instead of looking at the San Francisco training session as an opportunity, I took it a slight against my abilities.Â Upon arrival, the office assigned a district manager to guide and train me.Â I was convinced I knew more than him and was, in retrospect, a terrible student.Â
Â When the GM made the decision to move me to LA versus back to Korea, I was stunned and angry.Â I took that angry attitude to that office.Â I took the district manager position, thinking â€“ knowing â€“ it was a step down.Â I was â€œcombativeâ€ with the office trainer.Â I was not responsive to the district manager assigned to integrate me into the region.Â In short, after a few months, we mutually decided to walk away.Â They thought whatever skills I possessed was not enough to offset the attitude and disruption I brought.Â Â I thought I could go conquer another world, no problem.Â
So, what were the main takeaways?Â
- Â The move may well have been an indictment on my abilities, I was young and inexperienced, nevertheless, how I reacted was my choice.Â They choose.Â I choose.Â Â But I did not choose well.Â I reacted.Â Claiming to be proactive on a resume is nice, but as I learned later from reading Dr. Covey, and the original author, Dr. Frank, there is space between the stimulus and the response.Â Responsible people choose their response.Â I did not.
- Every move is an opportunity.Â A new position, be it lateral or downward, can be a good, learning experience.Â Obviously, if you are a senior VP and suddenly, you are parking cars, that may not be good, granted.Â Nevertheless, in this tough economy, a move with or without a pay cut does not have to end badly.Â It is how you respond and what you make of it.
- Key here was that each move was to a different geographical location.Â I did not have to bring any excess baggage with me, unless I chose to.Â It is, was, a fresh start.Â And if you are moved to a new geographical location, down or sideways, you may actually have a great opportunity to move ahead.Â Two steps back, 3 steps forward â€“ forward progress that is good.Â In my youth, I failed to understand that.
So, after I left, the company got better, those I left behind moved up the corporate ladder.Â Me, I wandered the wilderness for several years, learning some hard lessons.Â Lessons that I will do my best to share with you.Â Â
Remember, pride goes before the fall.Â However skilled or talented you are, find strength in humility.Â And watch where you step.Â