I like how Seth Godin (www.sethgodin.com) recently distinguished the difference between a failure and a mistake:

A failure is a project that doesn’t work, an initiative that teaches you something at the same time the outcome doesn’t move you directly closer to your goal.

A mistake is either a failure repeated, doing something for the second time when you should have known better, or a misguided attempt (because of carelessness, selfishness or hubris) that hindsight reminds you is worth avoiding.

We have been fortunate this year. We have visited more facilities, prepared more reports and worked with more clients that any other year ever. Not surprisingly as we’ve grown, we have had our share of failures from which we have learned a great deal.

We’ve worked with a few independent contractors that didn’t keep their promises.

We weren’t as specific as we should have been in certain proposals only to learn that the client was expecting us to include more buildings that we thought we’d agreed upon.

We agreed to work on a project or two that we probably should have passed on – and will next time.

The good news is that we did indeed learn from these “failures”, discussing them amongst our group and keeping a running list of what we learned through the year.  As a result, we have become much stronger as a company. It’s been a great year in which we tried some bold actions and committed to some bold projects that have changed what we see as possible.  And, yes, we had several failures that turned out to be disguised blessings.

I can’t wait to see what failures we’ll have the opportunity to learn from in 2012.