CAREER ADVICE

A System to Dissect Your Failures and Successes

September 13, 2017

Whether you’re preparing to start your career or get to the next level, it’s important to recognize that you will fail from time to time. Those who excel over the long term ensure they take away specific lessons from their failures and proactively infuse those lessons into their decision-making processes. To do so, you must be ready to proactively learn from your mistakes by analyzing what caused the unwanted result. This means finding a way to look at your errors objectively rather than personally to build your resilience. The six steps below can be used as a guide to learn from your experiences:

1. Describe the Desired Result

To understand whether you succeeded on an investment idea or a career goal, you need to be able to describe the desired result in clear and measurable terms.

2. Objectively Describe the Actual Result

Emotions can cloud our view of what happened. Try to document the facts of the result. This could mean re-visiting the inputs to your financial model or feedback you received from your portfolio manager on your communication skills.

3. Make a Hypothesis About Causation

Throughout the investment process, we develop and test hypotheses. The same process should be leveraged to analyze the major milestones in our career. Develop a hypothesis about why the desired result was different than the actual result and take a step back to try to evaluate what led to the alternate result.

4. Ask Questions About What Could Have Been Done Differently

Evaluate the alternate choices you could have made to lead to a different result. What would have happened if you made different decisions along the way?

5. Document the Lessons Learned

Beyond discussing these lessons with your manager, you should also keep a personal log or journal with them recorded. This will enable you to look back on them in the future and reflect on the process you went through when you encounter a similar circumstance.

6. Outline How You Will Make Decisions Differently Moving Forward

Do not let these lessons go forgotten. Use them to inform your thought process in the future to avoid making the same mistakes again. Write down specific actions you will take on a consistent basis based on the lessons learned.

“Human beings naturally focus on thinking about their successes,” explains Melinda Urban, Senior Recruiter at Citadel. “We often fail, ironically, to spend as much time thinking about our failures. However, analyzing our failures today leads to success tomorrow.”

For another perspective on how to make the most of failures, check out Citadel Conversations with Shawn Fagan, Chief Legal Officer of Citadel.