I like to jog while on travel for business.  It reduces stress, keeps my energy up, and sometimes…it has been a learning opportunity.

More than once I have gotten a little turned around and it has happened in Munich, Tokyo, and many points in between.  Every time I make a detour or tack on these extra miles it has been a learning experience – whether I enjoyed it or not — and it has made me a big believer in the power of learning from getting lost.

In the same way, our mistakes or blunders across cultures or business can be some of the richest areas for learning.  Sometimes these learning moments can be funny (to some), like the time I unknowingly passed a cup of sake to my three year old daughter at a temple ceremony in Japan.  Sometimes they might have big consequences like not properly cautioning an old boss about the dangers of publicly chastising a senior management member from the Japan head office.

In his book, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why, Laurence Gonzales (an expert on the psychology of survival) points out that “being lost” is a state of mind.  According to Gonzales, the helplessness and panic  of being “lost” is a lot different from not knowing where you are at a given moment.  So part of the puzzle is being ok with not knowing everything but being ready to actively engage to take control over what aspects of your journey that you DO have.

Business situations these days are so complex and come with so many layers complicated by factors like culture, organizational nuances, personalities and agendas that modern business people and executives will have ample “mistake material” to work from.  This is natural (although with some training much of it can be avoided).  So take these opportunities for learning and be intentionally reflective about what you are learning as you grow as a business professional.

Here are a couple questions to get you started:

What happened?

What was the impact?

What did I have control over in this outcome?

How do I want to be/act differently from now?