I spoke to Skip Prichard, author of The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future, about why he wrote the book, the biggest mistakes he’s made in his career, why we often feel empty despite thinking we have it all, how to realize your full potential and his best career advice.
Prichard is an accomplished CEO who has run global businesses ranging from the startup phase to mature businesses with over $1.5 Billion in revenue. He has spent decades studying leadership psychology and interviewing over 1,000 of the most successful people in the world. His extensive library is packed with personal development books from today to dating back hundreds of years. He has met or interviewed countless leaders ranging from Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to golf champion Annika Sorenstam. Harvard Business Review recently labeled Mr. Prichard as a rare social CEO and a “relentless giver.” Information Today lists him as a Top 100 Leadership Speaker. His Leadership Insights blog has won numerous awards.
Dan Schawbel: Why did you decide to write a book of mistakes and in the form of a parable?
Skip Prichard: How the most successful individuals make decisions has always been fascinating to me. Nearly my entire life, I have studied success and failure. As I reflected on all of these lessons, I realized that I learn as much, or even more, from those who have failed. As a teenager, it was a homeless man who taught me lessons that I found as important as those I’ve learned from the world’s most successful. Isn’t that true for many of us? We learn more from others’ mistakes than their successes. The book is written in the form of a story because I wanted it to be different and entertaining. Almost like slipping vegetables in a kid’s meal, I wanted to let readers enjoy a story and yet walk away with many lessons. Also, there’s extensive research that stories are more memorable than facts. Business leaders know this instinctively. Richard Branson once said, “The art of storytelling can be used to drive change.”
Schawbel: What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in your career? Who or what did you turn to after making these mistakes?
Prichard: Having been the President & CEO of several global businesses, I can assure you that I’ve made my share of mistakes. The key is to fail quickly, get back in the game, and try again. I address this principle in The Book of Mistakes as well. The real mistake, for me, wasn’t a business error as much as when I would get off track. Let me explain. Many years ago, the late business lecturer Jim Rohn said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job, you’ll make a living. If you work hard on yourself, you’ll make a fortune.” There is such wisdom in those words. I learned early on that my biggest mistake is when I work harder on my job than on myself. Like Stephen R. Covey’s seventh habit, sharpening the saw, when we work on our own personal development, we increase our abilities in all areas of our lives. Anytime I am not working harder on myself, and thus sharpening the saw or tools that drive me, I am making a mistake.
Schawbel: Why—despite having a good job, friends and a place to live—can we still feel hollow? How do we identify what’s missing in our life?
Prichard: There’s not an easy, universal answer to this question as it would range from the spiritual to the physical to mental depending on the person. My own experience is that often this is the result of not pursuing our passion and failing to be true to ourselves. When we live to please others or within the constraints they impose on us, we will not be our best self. We will lack energy and authentic power. My book starts here.
Schawbel: How does someone realize their true potential if they haven’t lived it?
Prichard: My starting point is to ask about a person’s energy. When we find out what gives that person energy, what really drives them, we start to uncover real passion. That passion points the way to potential. Each one of us has far more potential than we utilize. I do all I can to read, watch, and meet people who inspire me by overcoming their limitations. Then, when I find myself grumbling, I remember how someone else overcame something far more daunting. There are times individuals realize their potential early, but most of the time it is revealed in stages. Our job is to drive for daily potential, which then builds into years and eventually a lifetime of achievement.
Schawbel: What are your top three pieces of career advice?
Prichard: One, work harder on yourself than your job. Two, take full accountability for your actions and make no excuses. Three, surround yourself with the people who will take you where you want to go.