A Very Short Memory

Not long ago, a top quarterback was asked a fascinating question: What’s the most important skill for professional success? His answer: a very short memory….

He explained that whenever he made a mistake on the field, he only had a few seconds to move back to a mental peak performance state to deal with the next challenge. This would be impossible if he was still mentally fuming about his past mistake.

This is a great example of resilience: the ability to deal effectively with set-backs. Professional athletes only have a few seconds to absorb disappointments. We may often have more than a few seconds, but the necessary skillset remains the same. 

The biggest pitfall for leaders is therefore to make a recoverable mistake, quickly followed by a stupid decision of epic proportions: all because of a long memory. Think of the executive losing his temper in a public environment: Instead of admitting the mistake, he remains in a negative emotional state, doubles down, and burns even more bridges. This behavior has got successful people like Elon Musk in hot water on Twitter multiple times.

I therefore always allow myself victim time: Whenever I face a set-back, I give myself the freedom to moan, whine, and gnash my teeth for a maximum of 15 minutes. After that, I resume ownership and get back to work.

What’s your strategy to deal with set-backs?

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/Alena Igdeeva


Balan Balan
July 26, 2022 at 5:05 am

The best advice ever
Thank you Paul.
Warm regards,
Dr Balan

July 26, 2022 at 9:20 am

I give myself 3 days freedom as follows: 20 minutes on day one, 10 minutes on day two and 5 minutes on day three.

July 26, 2022 at 11:13 am

Great blogpost. I will shorten my victim time starting today. (It used to be 30 minutes).

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