Want to be more productive? Be a Goldfish…

If you haven’t seen the show ‘Ted Lasso’ yet, you need to. It’s a heartwarming, funny show about an American football coach who takes a job in the United Kingdom as a soccer coach in the Premier League. The coach, Ted Lasso, doesn’t know anything about soccer, but he knows how to build a great team and he knows a lot about leadership and getting people to believe.

One of the early scenes in the show (episode 2) has the coach counselling one of his players who’s having a bad day at practice and making it worse because he’s beating himself up because of the mistakes he’s making. Coach Lasso pulls the player aside and shares a really important idea:

“You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish, Sam.”

– Ted Lasso

Now science doesn’t really support Coach Lasso’s assertion about the 10 second memory, but the overall point of his advice is still valid. Far too many of us compound any mistakes we might make by reliving those mistakes and creating a negative spin that impacts anything else we might be doing. The original mistake might not be a big deal, but the negative spiraling almost certainly will be.

With that in mind, when mistakes are made (by you or someone on your team) how should they be handled? Mistakes are going to be made, but the good news is there are productive ways that you can move past them and even learn from them.

How to deal with Mistakes…

The first step to dealing with mistakes is to adopt Coach Lasso’s advice and cultivate a short memory. That’s easier to do when you’re on the playing field and the game continues to move forward, but you can still do something similar in your work place. Take a deep breath, recognize what happened and then give yourself permission to move on (and do your best to let it go).

From personal experience, I can assure you that it’s rarely as simple as just moving on – it’s skill (or maybe an art) that has to be developed for most of us, but with practice and intentionality you can get better at it. So ‘Be a Goldfish’.

Learn from your mistakes

Not letting a mistake compound into an afternoon (or several days) of negativity and beating yourself up is a great benefit, but If you really want to supercharge your performance, then you also need to find a way to learn from your mistakes.

In some cases, this could be as simple as taking time at the end of the day and reflecting on what happened, why it happened and what you could potentially do better next time.

Or for bigger issues (or those impacting a team) you could take a lesson from the Navy SEALs. SEALs hold an After Action Review (AAR) after every practice session and mission they do. This is a simple and very candid discussion about what worked, what didn’t and how they collectively could do better the next time out. The discussion isn’t about blame (although they will clearly call out who was at fault), instead the focus is on improvement.

Do you currently do anything like an after action review with your team?

Mindset is everything

And that leads to the final piece of the productivity puzzle when it comes to mistakes. Whether you’re doing a solo, personal review or a team After Action Report the most important aspect is how you approach that effort. If you’re looking for negativity or for someone or something to blame, you’ll likely find it… and in the process you’ll make things worse.

Conversely if you’re looking to learn and for ways to improve, then it’s likely you’ll find those as well. Of course Coach Lasso addresses this as well. There’s a great scene in episode 8 where he’s talking about how he used to get upset about being disrespected and underestimated until he came across a Walt Whitman quote:

“Be curious, not judgmental.”

– Walt Whitman (via Ted Lasso)

If you want to get more things done, if you want to be positive and set a great example for others, then following Walt Whitman (and Ted Lasso’s) advice is one of the best things you can do. Curiosity allows you to discover, to learn, to improve. And isn’t that really what life’s all about? Finding ways to get better and to be happy?

Mistakes will always happen, but if you’re curious, if you take the time to reflect and learn… and also let things go (like a goldfish) you’ll not only stay productive… you’ll also get better.

What do you think? Have you watched Ted Lasso yet? What did you think? Any favorite lessons or quotes for you? We’d love to hear them – leave us a comment below.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach