Identifying and Learning from Your Greatest Mistake in 2018

“Your best teacher is your last mistake.” –Ralph Nader

Just as we seek to capitalize on and replicate our successes, we have a duty to ourselves to learn and grow from our mistakes. Hopefully you’ve already identified your greatest triumph from the last year; now it’s time to move the opposite direction and try to identify your single greatest mistake.

To truly benefit from this exercise requires some brutal self-honesty.

What did you do wrong in 2018? If you’re like most of us, you’ve had a few missteps during the year, but is there one that stands out as particularly regrettable or woeful? Some possible examples:

  • You failed to meet the expectations of a lucrative, long-standing client relationship, and you lost the client as a result.
  • You had a vital staff member quit due to a preventable miscommunication.
  • You spent too much time and money on an outmoded marketing technique that obviously wasn’t working.
  • You discovered that you lost an unacceptable number of leads to a competitor simply due to a lack of follow-up.


Getting to the Root Cause

Have you been able to narrow down your choices to one mistake that had the most significant effect on your law firm? Now it’s time to evaluate what really happened. Don’t be too self-judging here—rather, try to look at the mishap from the standpoint of a neutral investigation:

  • What circumstances precipitated the mistake?
  • How much income was lost as a result?
  • What convinced you this action was a mistake?
  • Could the mistake have been prevented, and if so, how?
  • If you could turn back the clock, what would you do differently?


Just as you did with your greatest victory of the past year, you now want to reverse-engineer the mistake to discover the root cause—then make whatever corrections are necessary to keep it from happening again.

Why Focus on the Greatest Mistake?

We should certainly learn lessons from all our mistakes, but we have some specific reasons for honing in on the biggest one of the year in this exercise:

  • Fixing the costliest mistake first will save you the most time and/or money in the new year.
  • You may be able to trace other mishaps to this one. In other words, fixing this mistake might trigger other course corrections as a result.
  • You don’t want to get discouraged or overwhelmed by trying to address everything that’s wrong. Addressing one at a time is emotionally healthier, so addressing the biggest mistake first will give you the greatest impact.


By enacting the steps we’ve given you above, you’ll be in a better position create viable solutions to prevent a repeat of this year’s biggest mistake. If you’re uncertain what that solution might look like, feel free to give us a call at (888) 207-2869.

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