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Jeffrey Baumgartner

Don't Just Wonder What Went Wrong - Ask What Went Right

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

Okay, I am going to be more open than I usually am in public. Business has been slow these past too many months. And like many an independent businessperson in a situation like this, I have been kicking myself and asking, "What went wrong?" I was not finding any answers and I was not feeling terribly good about myself, which is not a good thing for someone whose work partly relies on self-confidence in front of crowds!

What Went Right

Then one day, I realised I was asking the wrong question. I should be asking myself, "What went right?" for three really important reasons. Firstly, I have done a lot of things right. I was an in demand keynote speaker and workshop facilitator working internationally. I had written four books. I wrote, and still write, the longest running newsletter or blog on innovation. I have been interviewed for blogs, podcasts, videos, newspapers, magazines, radio and television over the years.

Secondly, in order to work out what went wrong, I needed to work out what I had been doing right and was not doing so right any more. Indeed, this little twist of thought has made a huge difference. By reflecting back on the things I had been doing well a year or two ago, I could see how I deviated from an effective path to a not so effective one.

Thirdly, recalling the things that went right in the past was a powerful self-esteem boost. Instead of feeling like a failure, I was feeling like a competent guy who was going through a bit of a rut. Which I was. More importantly, I realised, it was a rut I could fix.

The Better Path

Cartoon: Machine to kick you when you are downThings are already going better. After working out what went right, I could easily identify what went wrong. I could see how I veered from a path of growing professional success to professional stagnation. In the past few weeks, I have put myself back on a path that worked for me in the past. I have stopped bad habits and returned to more effective habits.

In particular, I realised that with growing success, I began to focus too much on what I wanted rather than what my clients wanted. That's not good for business. I have changed that. I have changed other things about the way I work. 

It has already made a difference. In the few weeks since my discovery and changing my behaviour, have been invited to lead workshops in Europe as well as deliver a keynote at a conference in Madras, which I sadly had to turn down. I have a new book project: The Best of Report 103.

Not Just Professionally

So far, we've looked at asking what went right professionally. But this is an approach you can also use if you feel you are in a rut for personal reasons, at school or in your relationship. I remember when my second marriage fell apart after 14 years. It seemed all kinds of things went wrong to the point where I no longer recognised my ex-wife as the young woman I had fallen in love with. Today, I need only look at the two fine teenage sons that our marriage and continued co-parenting produced to know without doubt that we did some things very, very right.

When You're Feeling Down

So, the next time you are feeling that you have failed, whether professionally, in a relationship, in education or in anything, do not kick yourself and ask, "What went wrong?" Hug yourself and ask, "What went right?" Then work out what you need to do to get back on that path of doing the right things. 

 

 

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