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Be a Gunslinger, But Own Your Mistakes

You can’t wade into difficult problems and take personal responsibility for solving them without screwing up a good portion of the time. Tackling difficult problems means failing sometimes, and you need to be prepared.

Remembering that there are worse things in life than getting fired is one way to develop comfort with gun-slinging, but perspective alone won’t help you deal with the mistakes you do make. If you want to be a gunslinger, you have to learn to take bullets without losing the fight—you have to become skilled at dealing with mistakes.

The hardest part of dealing with mistakes is admitting that you screwed up. People just don’t like to do that. You’ve been trained all your life to be right, and it takes a special effort to admit in an effective way that you’re wrong. Once you’ve admitted to making a mistake, the rest is easy. If you work in a healthy organization, people will usually rally to help overcome the consequences of your mistake. If not, consider it an opportunity to improve your working environment by being the one "lone ranger" who isn’t afraid to be honest. You might be on your own to solve the problem, but at least you’ve found a way to improve.

Being a gunslinger takes practice. Don’t start with Dodge City. Start with smaller risks that will help you develop skills and confidence. Then crank it up a notch and take on bigger assignments. Don’t shy away from tasks that seem difficult or require significant personal involvement. Be involved. Remember, to be a real gunslinger, you have to put yourself in the line of fire and wade in with energy and commitment, ready for the rubber bullets and willing to go down trying.

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