Motivational Monday: Mistakes Pave The Way To A Greater Success


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I caught a segment on a popular morning news program in which the CEO of Google was being interviewed. The line of questioning centered on the type of potential employee Google typically looks for and the kinds of ideas that would catch the eye of Google as something they would want to pursue.

The CEO gave the example two potential ideas, one that would result in a car that could get 50 miles to the gallon, and one that would get 500 miles to the gallon. While the first idea would be more easily attainable and very useful in the world today, they would be much more interested in the second idea. Even if they failed, the CEO asked the interviewer to think about all they would learn simply by trying to achieve a seemingly impossible task.

Thinking that through for a minute, I realized the genius of that perspective. Imagine if two teams of people worked on each of these ideas. The first team achieved 50 miles to the gallon. The second one only reaching half of their goal by coming up with a method to achieve 250 miles to the gallon.

Which one is the greater success?

About a year ago, I began training for my fourth marathon. I spent months doing speed training, extending the length of my runs, and experimenting with refuel and rehydration techniques. I had done things in this round of training I had never done before.

I fell far short of my time goal, but it was not a failure.

Over the first thirteen years of our marriage, my wife and I accumulated over $109,000 of credit card debt. We were on the brink of financial ruin, and had compromised my family’s future financial security. Yet I would not consider that a failure either.

Both of these scenarios are certainly mistakes. With my marathon training I had misjudged the impact an extra 20 pounds on my frame would have on my conditioning. I also hadn’t trained at the pace needed to achieve my goal. With our finances, my wife and I did not communicate about our finances, and we simply treated credit cards as a resource to get what we wanted, whenever we wanted.

Mistakes only become failures when you refuse to learn from them.

In both of these instances, I have learned from my mistake. As I begin training for my next marathon in June of 2015, I am putting an emphasis on losing weight and paying attention to the pace at which I’m running. My wife and I communicate constantly about our finances, and make decisions together regarding how our money is spent.

We also take forward the knowledge we gained from our mistake.

Just as the knowledge of a team that set out to build a car that could achieve 500 miles to the gallon, but could only squeeze out an efficiency of 250mpg, our experiences have given us useful knowledge that we can build upon.

With my marathon training I know exactly how often my body needs some fuel and hydration to prevent running out of energy and hitting the infamous wall. With our finances, we know the effects that lack of communication and consistent overspending can have, even if we have learned that lesson more than once.

Set your goals high.

I’m very adamant that my goal for my June of 2015 is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It’s a lofty goal, and will require me to shave 50 minutes off my best marathon time.   If I train and achieve my goal, that will be spectacular. But if I train and shave 25 minutes off my personal best it will still be the best time I’ve achieved by far.

Regarding my finances, I actually have a list of goals both short term and long term that I want to accomplish. They are also very lofty goals.  If I achieve all of them, I will have complete and undisputed financial freedom. If I only achieve some of them, I  will simply be well taken care of for the rest of my life.

Are you setting your goals high enough? Are you learning from your mistakes?

About Travis

27 Responses to “Motivational Monday: Mistakes Pave The Way To A Greater Success”

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  1. Kim says:

    Great topic. I tend to set my goals pretty high and I never get discouraged if I make significant progress. If I set them really low and met them all that would not seem nearly as much of an accomplishment.

  2. I have some pretty big goals when it comes to some creative projects that I want to produce, but for now I’m working on producing shorter pieces that will hopefully gain some attention and provide me with more credibility and hopefully in the long run, funding. And even if the second one happens, as long as I’m working towards that I will never consider what I’m doing a failure. Good luck with your training this time and I’ll keep my fingers crossed you do really well!!

    • Travis says:

      You have long term goals that you are working for, and your current projects are calculated stepping stones – sounds like you’re on your way, Tonya! Thanks for your well wishes…be ready for an onslaught of #pfworkout tweets and FB updates for this training sequence……yes even more than last time. LOL.

  3. We have certainly learned from our mistakes. We never plan on getting back into debt. I think now being debt free we can aim even higher with our goals. We are not stressed out, and weight down by $100k of debt looming over are head each day we can push ourselves further.

  4. Your comment about training for a certain pace really stuck with me. Yesterday, my youngest daughter ran her fist 5 km road race. I told her that I would run a 5km with her next spring, and a 10km next October. When I went to the gym later in the evening, I made a point of training for a certain pace. I could only do it in 1 minute intervals, but I know that with regular training, I’ll be able to maintain the pace for longer and longer periods of time. Having a commitment to run those races definitely works as a motivation. Especially since I’ll be running with my daughter : )

    • Travis says:

      That’s awesome, Prudence! I think of that quote often too, it really had an effect on me. You’ll have to keep me (and the EOD nation) up to date with how your training is going. 🙂

  5. This is a great point. I need to be better about acknowledging that achieving even half of a lofty goal is still successful. I’m guilty of setting outrageously high goals and then (unsurprisingly) not achieving them in full and feeling frustrated. I’ve come to realize that I’m a constant goal setter & re-setter, such that once I achieve one goal, I immediately set a higher goal. I need to learn from this mistake and remember this post :)!

    • Travis says:

      It’s easy to get frustrated when you don’t achieve a goal you set out to accomplish, Mrs. Frugalwoods… thing I always keep in mind is that the point is to simply get incrementally better. If I go to bed just a little better of a person than when I woke up, then the day was a success!

  6. “Mistakes only become failures when you refuse to learn from them” this is a really great quote. Something worth writing down, that’s for sure. Qualifying for the Boston marathon is a great goal. Definitely doable, but not easy.

  7. I think this is great! Shoot for the stars and reach the moon, right? I think that’s what the saying is =)

  8. Michelle says:

    I am shooting for the stars. After I decided to quit my day job, I don’t have the choice of failure.

    • Travis says:

      You tend to work a little harder at something when failure is not an option. Our DMP payment which led us down the road of paying off our credit card debt was like that – and we worked tirelessly to make that payment, and all our financial obligations each month. Thanks for sharing!

  9. “I fell far short of my time goal, but it was not a failure.” I love this point Travis! I think so often we get ourselves into the mindset that if we fall short then we’re an absolute failure and thus get down on ourselves. I know I’ve done it myself and many of us do. But, like you said, it only becomes a failure when you fail to learn and take anything from it. Best of luck on your goal – that’s awesome! My wife is wanting to train for a marathon as well and excited to see her go through the process.

    • Travis says:

      It’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up, right John? Never give up, never stop trying to improve! Thanks for the well wishes, and good luck to your wife!

  10. Awesome post! I always say that failing to reach our goals is a good thing. It shows that you are growing as a person. pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. You also did a great thing by learning from your mistakes. You are now that much stronger and better than you were before!

    • Travis says:

      Sometimes we all surprise ourselves a little, Don. When given the opportunity to try something new, we find out we have talents and abilities we didn’t know we had. Great perspective, and thanks for reading!

  11. Elle says:

    Perfect post to start the day! Mistakes are never really fun, but there can be so much you can gain from them. I’ve tried so many different hobbies and projects over the years and while some didn’t turn out the way I hoped, I loved the experience. i picked up new skills and met some wonderful people.

    • Travis says:

      Ah, the bonus of meeting new people, and gaining new relationships. Nothing is more important to me in life than the connections to real people I gain through experiences. Great to hear from you Elle!

  12. Our mistakes (also $100K+) in non mortgage debt, have made an impression as well. I NEVER want to go back to that place. We’re more recently learning a huge mistake about being so far overextended in business. Is it weird to be looking forward to the great posts that will come out of this latest debacle once all is settled? LOL! Great thoughts.

    • Travis says:

      Hey, you take optimism and silver lining in anyway you can find it, right Toni? It’s those kinds of things that help you get up in the morning, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Good luck in paying off your business debt!

  13. Chenell Tull says:

    If everything went as planned in life, nothing would ever be learned. I like this article a lot, thanks for sharing it.

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