After my first step, I fell on my rear end followed by several face plants on the carpet. Learning to walk as a child I fell a lot. We all did. Even at that early age, it was evident I wasn’t going to be the most graceful. In our adult years trying something new is sometimes filled with fear and dread because we don’t want to make a fool out of ourselves or fail miserably. We don’t want to do a face plant. People will laugh at us. The reality is we all suck at some point in our lives – and that’s good thing. All those face plants into the carpet taught us to walk, which led to jumping, skipping and running. And for me tripping over my own two feet when learning.
Business analysis can be a lot like taking your first steps when you are starting out as a Business Analyst or even just starting a project. There will be moments when you will fall and need to pick yourself up again. The hardest thing we can learn is how to fail.
No one wins a gold medal without practice. You don’t just pop out of the womb with the ability to throw a discus or javelin to new world record lengths. Of course a natural talent in that DNA of yours helps, but in the end, it takes practice and time. The same applies to business analysis or any other skill. It takes time, experience and practice to be the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. Nobody created a perfect context diagram or process flow the first time they did it. We all started from the place of not knowing and started learning.
As human beings, we are impatient as a rule and don’t want to wait or invest long periods of time on learning. There are more important errands to run and things to do. So we don’t bother to pursue trying something new or learning. There are just too many things going on around you. Too many things are competing to get your attention. We lose sight of the importance of learning. Not making the time to learn or practice new tasks will always keep us in the novice stage. Learning takes time and in this busy world, we need to set aside time to learn so we can move from novice to badass proficient.
As the old saying goes that once you stop learning, you slowly fade away. That brain of yours loves a challenge now and then that doesn’t involve thinking about how to get through traffic faster. Challenging that gray matter is essential to keeping your head in the game and your mind sharp for future problems. But we don’t like doing new things because we might fail (perform yet another face plant) or be embarrassed.
Put yourself out there and pick something new to learn. It doesn’t have to be rocket science – but who doesn’t want to fly to another planet? Pick something that interests you that you haven’t tried before. Let’s burn some new neuro pathways! Science shows that those who continually learn can pull from a broad array of skills and experiences in solving problems. This larger range of good stuff gives you the ability to confront and solve the problems you face faster.
You can’t give up – be patient. You’re learning something new – and hopefully, it’s fun and exciting to learn. Practice or learn a new skill understanding it’s going to be a little tricky, and you might fail a few times before attempting to learn it.
Give yourself the permission to fail. Write yourself a note or look yourself in the mirror and give yourself permission to fail and make mistakes. Make a deal with yourself. Listen – I know I’m going to fail at this a few times, but I’m going to sit down and learn from my failures so the next time I try it, I will be better. Don’t just let failure happen. When things fail or don’t quite work out, stand back and think about what you can learn from it. Grab a pen and paper. Write out the failure openly and honestly. You don’t need to share it with the world. Think about what happened and try to put together a sequence of events.
Don’t go crazy on this exercise. Analysis paralysis is going to grip you tightly if you spend too much time thinking about failure. This isn’t about beating yourself up – it’s about understanding the failure. Don’t dwell on the failure in depth. Get the gist of it out and keep it high level. Don’t blame others or yourself.
Now look at what could have gone better. Try to get to the cause but be aware you might never get to the root cause. Think in terms of “The next time this happens I’m going to act or do this…” Think about what you could have done differently.
Wrap this whole exercise up in 5-10 minutes. What went wrong, what did I learn and how can I fix it the next time it happens. Call it good enough. Get back in the game and try it again. You failed, but that’s that way we learn.
Give learning a new skill a chance but know when to quit. As hard as I have tried to paint a bowl of fruit, it’s still out of my reach. After a few attempts, it is evident to me that I’m just NOT going to get better at it. Know when to cut yourself off from learning and practicing a new skill. Give it time in the beginning and then make a realistic assessment after a few attempts. If you enjoy it then don’t stop. Joy is in short supply. So don’t cut yourself off too quick from it. Ask yourself the question “Am I happy doing this?”. If the answer is yes, then keep painting the bowl of fruit. If you are frustrated and not happy, it’s time to move on to something new.
For more good stuff on business analysis and leadership, check out the blog at Bob the BA.