Manley Feinberg II | Crain's St. Louis

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Manley Feinberg II


Manley Feinberg II, founder and CEO of St. Louis-based Vertical Lessons Inc., is a business leadership and engagement speaker and author. His new book is "Reaching Your Next Summit!: 9 Vertical Lessons for Leading with Impact." Before shifting his focus to writing and public speaking, Feinberg spent nearly two decades in the corporate world. That included a stint at Build-A-Bear Workshop, where he rose to become director of IT operations.

The Mistake:

Not restarting initiatives immediately after falling off track.

Looking back, a huge mistake I made throughout my days at Build-A-Bear was not restarting those essential daily and weekly activities that would help me build even more momentum and success. That's a relatively recent aha moment for me.

I was working with a mentor, a professional speech coach, on the new speech and explaining one story. I was on a climb with my son and he took a fall, which is pretty typical in climbing. We know we're going to fall and build protective systems that allow us to get moving again as quickly as possible. So I kind of nonchalantly said, "Little Manley fell." I locked off the rope and he got to climbing again.

My mentor said, “Wait a second. He fell?” I said, “Yeah. Sometimes you fall when you're climbing, especially if you're pushing yourself, just like in life. And if we didn't restart after a fall, we would never get to the top of any mountain.” He said, “That’s an incredible insight.”

That was a big aha moment because I realized I had made the mistake, for lack of a better term, of procrastination. It shows up in a couple of different ways. Let's say you declare a personal or business initiative: It can be starting to workout or making sales calls more frequently. Inevitably, you'll fall. They'll be a time when you miss a day, or maybe even a week. In the climbing world, when you take a fall, there are two choices. Typically, it's either, “Do I give up and climb down, or do I hang out for a minute, try to figure out how to get past this and try to climb to the top?” What's different is that you realize right there, "If I climb down, I'm giving up on this.” In the business world, when we're actually in that moment, we don't feel like we're quitting. But that procrastination is feeding a pattern that's much more likely to end in quitting.

The fall isn't the failure. Failure is if you quit.

The Lesson:

I developed a framework I apply to business and life. When you have that fall, the first step is to recall a previous summit a previous success. Step two is to re-examine your next couple of moves just enough to get you going again.

In climbing, we can't see 100 or 200 feet above us. We can only really see a few feet in front of us. So I don't know if I'm going to finish the climb, but I know my next three or four moves to get going, and the rest will reveal itself. In business, that may mean something as simple as rescheduling an appointment. Just a few little things to get yourself going again. Then, step three is to restart before you're ready. Don't wait until next week, next month, next year or until you feel up to it. I call it mastering the art of the restart and that applies to the daily activities that bring us success. They're not fun or sexy but, more and more, I realize those things you do every day make a significant impact in your long-term progress.

The real revelation, step zero, is expecting a fall. It sets you up not to procrastinate. Inevitably we're going to fall, and the fall isn't the failure. Failure is if you quit. If you expect to fall, it changes the question. The question is now not, “What if I fall?” The question becomes, “When I fall, what will I do next?” And what you do next is restart as quickly as possible. So, in everyday life, I would say, the next time the sun comes up, get back on it.

Manley Feinberg II is on Twitter at @manleyf.

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