The sports of baseball and tennis include references to a concept called an “unforced error.” This means a player makes a mistake of his or her own doing (as opposed to being “forced” into the error by an opposing player’s efforts).

When I hold office hours for members of my mentorship program, I often get questions asking me to speculate about what someone’s boss or client is thinking.

Will they promote me, or will they not? Do they hate me, or do they not?

Realistically, I don’t ever know the answer to these questions, and neither does the person asking.

Instead of trying to read other people’s minds, I encourage them and you to focus on playing your “game” — improve your skills, do the things you know you’re supposed to be doing, and do things consistently.

In other words, just avoid making “unforced errors.”

If you assume your boss hates you and you call him a jerk only to find out he doesn’t actually hate you, that’s an unforced error.

Instead, request a meeting with your boss and have an open and honest conversation about your working relationship.

If you assume your client is unhappy with you and you get defensive (only to find out that’s not actually the case), that too is an unforced error.

(It’s an error because you unnecessarily disrupt and strain the relationship in an attempt to solve a problem that didn’t actually exist.)

Instead, have regular check-in meetings with your client to make sure the relationship is working well for both of you.

If you didn’t prepare for a client meeting and your performance was terrible, that’s an unforced error.

To be clear, the unforced error was the lack of preparation. Sometimes meetings go well. Sometimes they don’t. You can’t always control that. But you can control whether you prepare.

(Incidentally, I’ve only done this one time in my career. My work was so terrible I refunded $35,000 in consulting fees to the client to apologize for wasting their time. I only made that unforced error… once.)

Sometimes being an exceptional success involves making wise strategic decisions in your career. Other times, it means good execution and avoiding unforced errors.

I teach the members of my Inner Circle mentorship program how to do both.

My Inner Circle is only open to new members once or twice a year.

I’ll be doing so next month. If you’d like to learn more about joining my Inner Circle mentorship program and to be notified when the enrollment period opens, just submit the form below. 

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