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I screw up


I screw up.


I do it both personally and professionally. I continue to do it, and do you know what? I actually want to carry on doing it!


There, I’ve said it. It seems very popular at the moment – there’s lots of people doing it on a daily basis (topical and very much in the news!), and not many of them admitting to it - or more importantly, learning from it.


Why is screwing up good? Well, as Tim Denning mentions in his LinkedIn post – adversity (or conflict) makes people ‘grow’. I reflect upon my dismal ‘A’ level performance with a biology project started the week before its submission date, conducted in my bedroom at my parents’ house. The project was to study the various effects of different types and dilutions of weed killer on various grasses. In short, the project was too late, ridiculously simple and totally unimaginative. I just couldn’t be bothered – in truth there were far more other interesting things for a spirited young man to get involved in at the age of 18.


Fast forward, 14 years and I’d reached a glass ceiling my career, I was being held back – my (lack of) qualifications wasn't helping. I decided to take time out to do an MBA and fund it with my own money. What a difference to my tender A level years – this time when I reached the point where I started thinking about my dissertation, I spent months researching the subject, developing a hypothesis, testing it and writing 10,000 words on the subject. My efforts were rewarded with a distinction for the dissertation and passing out with the other highly talented students in the year.


You see, the point for me was this, when it was time to start the dissertation, I reflected upon that biology project. What I did (or didn’t) do (and should have), what the implications were at the time and what the consequences were going forward. That was all the motivation I needed to right a wrong from the past.


A further 20 years on, I’m now the co-owner of a thriving start-up, trying lots of different things and still (on occasion) screwing up. Whilst we should reflect and profile the other side in a commercial conflict; we should also reflect on our own performances. In more general terms, screwing up has taught me the following:


  1. Only if I do nothing, can I definitely not screw up (some might say a lack of action could also be construed as screwing up)

  2. When I have screwed up, I should admit it early – take note Boris!

  3. By going public, I can also make other people feel better about their own trials and tribulations

  4. I need to take time to reflect and consider what I should have done differently

  5. If I find myself about to enter into a similar situation – look at the previous learning point, act upon my reflections of what happened and act differently (or expect more of the same).


I hope therefore I continue to screw up for many years to come. It really does make business move in the right direction. If we don’t continue to learn and grow from our mistakes, how do we move forwards? Here’s to continuing to screw up!


Sam Macbeth, 10th December 2021

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