We all make mistakes.
Most people learn from their own mistakes. Some learn from other people’s mistakes.
Why is this important?
This is one way you become an authority, a go-to person, an expert.
According to my Encarta dictionary, an expert is “someone who is skilled or knowledgeable about a particular subject, skill, training, or who is experienced in a particular field or activity”. We’re all experts of something, be it parenting, football, writing, or Twitter.
So where do your past mistakes come in?
Mistakes are often caused by bad judgment, ignorance or lack of care – all fixable problems.
How great would it be to help your readers by blogging about the mistakes you’ve made, preventing others from making the same mistakes and showing them the valuable lessons you’ve learned? This could be a perfect way to start or expand your freelance blogging career.
Think about it, would you rather take advice from someone who has read a lot on a subject or from someone who has been there, done that, and made a few mistakes here and there, steadily learning over time?
In the words of writer and speaker, Scott Berkun, it’s important to recognize, “You can only learn from a mistake after you admit you’ve made it. As soon as you start blaming other people (or the universe itself), you distance yourself from any possible lesson.” With that in mind, here are 3 key things you need to understand before using your mistakes to teach lessons to others.
If you touch a live electrical wire, you’ll probably experience a shock.
That trauma ensures you won’t do it again in a hurry.
Compare that to someone who has never touched a live wire and never would. Thanks to warnings from others, they know better. Same concept applies to blogging using my method.
2. Hindsight helps you understand how the mistake was made
That means you can see what you could have done differently to avoid the mistake altogether or for a better outcome.
Let’s use the electrical wire metaphor again. By now you understand touching a live electrical wire with your bare hands is probably not a good idea. You look back to understand why it happened and how to avoid that mistake in the future:
- It happened because you failed to make sure the electricity was shut off before trying to DIY.
- To have a better outcome in the future, you now know to make sure the electricity is shut off first (or to hire an electrician instead).
3. You can’t fully understand a mistake until it’s in the past
The more time has passed, the more you distance yourself from the impact or “shock” of the result, so you can look back at the situation with a clearer mind and sensible thinking.
Let’s use another example: say an editor rejected your article. It’ll take time for you to digest how, when and where you went wrong, especially when you’re still upset over being rejected. By allowing enough time to pass and the initial emotion to wear off, you can look back and realize your mistake was failing to follow the submission guidelines, or pitching at the wrong time. Lesson learned.
Once you understand those three things, you’re now ready to blog about your mistakes.
How to Become a Go-To Blogger
By using the simple what-not-to-do method of teaching, you can begin writing informative and uniquely tailored blog posts, showing your readers how they can avoid problems.
Your blog posts can evolve into you giving valuable tips, knowledgeable detail, and friendly assistance about your subject. Here’s what classifies you as a go-to person and why:
Failures and successes in a particular subject result in better lessons
Or, failing and then succeeding at a particular lesson works too. Doing it wrong then getting it right is proof that you’ve learned the very lesson you’re teaching, which makes you more of an authority. Simply getting it wrong but refusing to make it right will have less positive impact on your credibility.
Your mistakes result in more than one lesson or angle worthy of a blog post
In order to be a go-to person and truly be influential, one mistake and one lesson will not cut it. Your mistakes should have taught you many lessons in a particular area, until you almost feel you could write a book on the subject.
The more information you have to offer in your field, the more people will learn from you and consider you an authority. If your lesson stops at “don’t touch live wires” why would anyone return to you for more information?
Your lesson’s impact increases with its value
How do you know if it carries value? Ask yourself these questions:
- Are people actively looking to learn more about the topic?
- Is it a hot-button topic or issue?
- Is it timeless?
- Have many guest posts, articles, books and blogs have been written about it?
- Do you get a lot of questions about it?
- Before becoming an expert, did you have questions and seek answers on the topic?
- Is there plenty of information currently available about it?
- Do you offer your own unique angle on the topic?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then your lesson has value. If you answered yes to all of those questions, then it may be even more valuable.
A lesson on a common subject like bringing traffic to your blog, or writing great headlines, can be highly valuable to your readers if it comes with your unique knowledge and originality, adding to the information already available.
The Simple What-Not-To-Do Method
Here’s how to write amazing blog posts about the lessons you’ve learned, using the what-not-to-do method of teaching:
Details of your mistakes are not necessary
Make sure the majority of your blog post expresses the importance of the lesson and does not go into detail about your mistake, unless the mistake is absolutely critical to understanding the lesson. It’s easy to ramble on about what you did wrong; keep your posts free of talking more about yourself than actually helping the reader.
Be clear about how each particular lesson will help the reader
Sometimes it works to use a numbered or bulleted list of instructions to be clear on your lesson. Other times, a very specific and precise description is better. At other times, using examples may be best, and generalizing your lessons could also be a way of teaching and providing information.
To decide which of these methods to use, focus on the delivery. What are you trying to convey to the reader?
- If you have a step-by-step list of instructions, it’s probably best to use a numbered list.
- If your lessons require exact measurements or very detail-oriented instructions, maybe a combination of lists and descriptions is best.
- If your lessons are technical or hard to grasp initially, use examples to further explain your point.
- If your lesson could be applied to several different fields, consider generalizing your post so the reader can see how to apply that information in other cases.
Draw general lessons from specific mistakes
Make sure your lesson could be applied to a larger lesson within your subject, in everyday situations, or in a way where the gist of the lesson can be easily remembered. Like this…
- The mistake: Touching an exposed live wire
- The specific lesson: Turn off power before touching exposed wire
- Specific delivery: “Don’t touch live wire!”
- The general lesson: Take precautions when handling hazardous items
- Generalized delivery: “Being aware of your surroundings is critical.”
There’s nothing like experiencing things for yourself, because you gain an understanding that helps you teach many valuable lessons.
Everyone is looking for easier, faster and better ways of getting the information they need. This is where you come in.
Your lessons from your mistakes are in demand, because people want to start off on the right foot. Learning the hard way is not what most people want to do; teachers exist because we like to acquire knowledge with little or no risk.
Now use your past mistakes to become the go-to person in your niche, and keep future generations from handling exposed live wires!