Consider This

Robert Stevenson’s Thoughts on the Pursuit of Excellence

The Source of Knowledge is Experience

March 11, 2018

by Robert Stevenson

According to the Small Business Administration, there are 543,000 new businesses started every month, but only roughly 18 percent of them will ever succeed. The leading causes of small business failure are:

  • Incompetence: 46%
  • Lack of managerial experience: 30%
  • Catchall category (neglect, fraud, disaster): 13%
  • Lack of experiences in goods or services: 11%

Three out of the four listed have to do with lack of experience. Entrepreneurs and business leaders need all the help they can get when it comes to gaining experience. There is no substitute for experience, unless you can gain it from the experiences of others. Albert Einstein summed it up so succinctly when he stated: “The only source of knowledge is experience.” So, I thought it would be helpful if I put together a list of business axioms to help shorten your learning curve. The definition of an axiom is: a statement or proposition that is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evident. And, they all have been learned through experience.

For some of you, these axioms will serve as a reminder of something you already know, but are you doing, following, and/or heeding them all? That is the big question.

  1. Listen carefully to your clients; they will tell you how to stay in business.
  2. Minimize company policy and procedures. Simplify every chance you get.
  3. Under commit and over deliver.
  4. Take time to chat with employees; they too, have good ideas.
  5. Remember, anyone can be replaced … you included.
  6. Employee turnover is much more expensive than paying well.
  7. Celebrate what your employees do for you.
  8. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, so fix or replace it.
  9. Leaders give more to their staff than just a paycheck.
  10. If you’re going to lose, lose early.
  11. The person who asks the questions controls the conversation.
  12. Great leaders take joy in the successes of those under them.
  13. Praise loudly and blame softly.
  14. Always push yourself to make continual improvement.
  15. Don't burn bridges. You'll probably need them again, someday.
  16. Arrogance kills success. Don't let your own arrogance blind you.
  17. When you go the extra mile, people take note.
  18. You're not as unique as you may think you are.
  19. There are many ways to do something. Embrace ideas from all generations.
  20. You can never achieve greatness without a little discomfort in the process.
  21. You will not learn anything while you are talking. Listen closely and talk less.
  22. Look sharp. Dressing well helps you exude self-confidence without saying a word.
  23. Never waste your energy looking for an excuse. Save that energy to look for a solution.
  24. Smart people learn from their mistakes. Wise people learn from other people’s mistakes.

One of my favorite quotes is from Will Rogers: “Good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement.” Experience is a cruel teacher. It gives a test before presenting the lesson. That isn’t fair, but it’s reality. Hopefully you will gain from these axioms, so your teacher won’t be so cruel. Remember, wise people learn from other people’s mistakes.

"Your only true security in life
is your ability to perform."

About the Author

Robert Stevenson is an expert at building a high-performance business culture, improving efficiency, and accelerating growth. He is one of the most widely sought-after speakers in the world today, as well as a best-selling author. He has owned five companies, sold internationally in over 20 countries. Robert has spoken to over 2,500 companies throughout the world and his research in the area of corporate and entrepreneurial success is extensive. Over 2 million people have benefitted from his powerful, practical, and thought-provoking programs. He is a true master at blending facts, inspiration, conviction, and humor into all his programs.

Companies like FedEx, Prudential, Lockheed Martin, Anheuser-Busch, Chevron, American Express, and Berkshire Hathaway continue to rely on him for a fresh, unique perspective on businesses’ most crucial issues. To learn more about Robert and what he can do for your team visit his website at

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