There Is No GPS For Your Future

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We often live a life that is about learning how to avoid mistakes, which means we’re not willing to take risks. When we won’t take chances, we don’t learn anything new — all we’re doing is repeating back all the knowledge that we currently have, which isn’t all that much, based on how much is actually out there.

To accelerate success, you must be willing to make mistakes. Failure is a resource; it helps you find the edge of your capabilities, and your capacities.

Everything that you do has come through failing, realizing that wasn’t the way to do it, doing it differently, learning a skill set and then eventually mastering whatever it is.

As I read that note in an article written by David Nagel, executive coach, it completely overwhelmed my thought process. Failure accelerates success. As I write this, I am on a 15 hour flight leaving Hong Kong headed home to New York for the holidays. On long flights like this, I often cocoon for a period and just think reflectively. Especially at this time of year, we should all move into a reflective move in some way.

Living in disbelief

If someone told me just a few years ago that I would end up traveling all over the world and living abroad in the Middle East, I would have suggested health care immediately. My travels and business give me the ability to educate the next level of HR leaders and work with senior leaders from some of the most prestigious brands in the world. The journey takes me to Africa, APAC and Europe.

However, this journey has not been without multiple failures that provided the steam to propel me to this pinnacle.

I was asked in a recent forum if I would ever consider coming back to corporate in some capacity. My answer was a resounding NO! Been there done that, succeeded and failed in that past life. But as I review and reflect on the past years, my portfolio is bulging with memories good and bad. They are sprinkled with numerous failures, missteps and a lot of agony. Multiple times, I’ve stared at a crossroad that looked bleak.

No instruction manual for life

There will never be an instruction manual that guides you thorough failures. You take a deep breath and proceed whether that is a U-turn, a left turn or right. The bet you make can lead to a host of outcomes.

This post is based on reflection, which should be a part of our growth process no matter the situation you are in at this point in time. How was 2018? Was it filled with failure or was it a resounding success? Regardless which end of the spectrum it falls, we must all reflect on the year as a part of growth. If you suffered failure or resounding success it does not matter. Reflect upon it.

I remember keeping a file of rejection letters and email. From time to time I would pull out the file and read over the letters. I noticed something after I went through this process: I felt a refueling of energy and a rise in optimism.

Life is not GPS based

In a lot of cases I was almost thankful that some of those letters were not offers, because each could have been a failure or some, a detour, like a u-turn toward an unknown destination. While we may plot a destination or milestone on our own way, the direction is not GPS-based and not always a direct route.

There will be multiple detours along the way. The CEO of MD-40 said in a video about working at his company that, “We don’t make mistakes here; we have learning moments.” Such a powerful message.

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Embrace them all

Embrace your failures; look at each unplanned detour as a toll-gate. At that toll-gate the fare to move forward is to acknowledge what happened and learn from it, and as the gate lifts and you proceed to the next stopping point realize it could turn out to be a huge success or another failure.

That is the risk we take. That is what makes life so interesting. Life is like a big puzzle. At any given time, something could come along and wipe all the pieces to the floor. That does not mean that you give up. What it means is that you step back, breath, analyse and move back into the game.

We all have a destination in mind, yet none of us can know where we will end up. We are all on the same journey — all of us. From the outside, as we review the landscape, we admire and, in some cases, may be envious of what we see of others. However, if you could see inside the mind of these others, you’d find their trail was fraught with turning points. I have always felt that the external view does not make the internal view.

Choose your Cadillac

In other words, it is not easy or, as my father would always tell me, “If it were easy everyone would be driving Cadillacs.” In his time frame that car was the sure sign that you made it.

So in closing chose your color, because your Cadillac is waiting.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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