January 29, 2013
On your long road to success, you will undoubtedly make mistakes. If you are a true success, you will quickly recognize these errors and quickly correct them, putting yourself back on track. The true success use failure as a temporary condition. To fail is nothing more than a guidance mechanism.
It's hard to believe it has been this long, but twenty years ago I was programming a radio station and took it into an area that caused it damage. It's an interesting story and one of those that is helpful to examine so future generations do not have to repeat these mistakes.
I always love to have the best minds available around me in any project, a super tight circle of pros way better than their experience might indicate. I call them by the name Napoleon Hill coined: "The Mastermind Alliance". My Mastermind Alliance at that point was made up of some of radio's best programming minds and talent - to this day. We literally talked positioning of the station for hours every day. We were obsessed.
#1 AND GROWING
We had achieved an unprecedented success with the station. An easy #1 with a bullet, the station was on top of the world. Just about every demo. How do you grow that? We hatched an idea. We would walk the station from where it was to where it could be, growing the station in the process. Sounds easy. But to do that, we had to abandon some core beliefs and positions the station had held for years. The same positions we ourselves had built! Now we would try something new. It was uneasy, but we banked on our success. No one would challenge us, after all, we were the best, right? Wrong.
A couple in the Mastermind circle argued against the new position we would attack, but some did not, and in the end, the decision came down to me. Several were openly vocal about putting the station in unknown territory, and I appreciate their voices even to this day.
THE WRONG CALL
Of course I did not know it at the time, but I made the wrong call, and ordered a movement into territory where it became painfully obvious within 6 months that we could not win. After years of tremendous success, we watched the life drain out of the station caught up in a battle it had no business ever being in. As the audience fled to new competitors, we scratched our heads. The power had gone to our heads. Believing our own press and invincibility, I had ordered the station into a fight that drained our resources, sapped our strength, and made the great station falter. I was despondent. We had lost it. A stinging failure, a total disaster.
One of my most trusted advisers at the time, and also a Civil War strategic mind, told me that all might not be lost. While I took full blame for the slipping ratings and failures, and expected to be fired at any moment, he told me that I had simply moved the station into the "Wilderness", and maybe we could get out alive. Huh? I quickly ran to my history books. Sure enough, there was the story of the Wilderness and Grant's army. General Grant had taken his army into the wilderness of Virginia, a place they didn't belong and didn't know. The wilderness was a foreign, unknown place to his army where it was totally unfit to do battle. After a long and protracted fight, he did an amazing thing - he simply pulled out, still headed south.
Once Grant saw that his attack was not going to work, he pulled out and went around. No apologies, no big deal. He just took what he had done wrong and made it right. Once he did, the troops saw what was going on, they cheered. As I read the story, it became obvious what we needed to do. I was stubborn and at that point was just cocky enough to think we could overcome any law of the Universe. We had not learned from history. But, once we saw the light, we knew what we had to do.
This all could have been disastrous, but our Mastermind Alliance surrounding me quickly saw we had made the wrong move. So we did a Grant, we immediately corrected it, made no apologies, pulled out of the losing fight, went around, put the station back on track within 24 hours, and kept pushing forward, and yes, we jumped right back to #1 the next month.
Yes, that was the sound of cheering we heard when we arrived back at the top. I shudder to think what could have happened to the station had any of us left the battlefield at that critical moment. The station might no longer be on the air in the same format today - which it is, and that makes me very proud that we had built such a strong foundation all those years ago.
That Mastermind Alliance has since disbanded and moved on to bigger and better things, but they all know who they are and this very subject comes up from time to time. It's about knowing when to fight, and when to go around. It's knowing you don't have all the answers and to be open to the ideas and opinions of others. Most of all, its being able to identify you have steered your ship into a place you don't want it to be - and then reversing course quickly, and without apology. Don't push your career in a direction just because you are stubborn. Learn from the mistakes of others, and never, ever, give up.