One Step Backward... Ten Steps Ahead!

Growing up with three older brothers (and then, after almost 11 years, a younger brother as well), I learned early on that modeling the successes of my brothers and learning from their mistakes was very smart—it served me well.  

And yes, as a kid, because of this, I got away with much more as well—those are stories for another day, though.

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    Fast forward a few decades...

    Those lessons learned as a child are baked into me today—thank goodness, I am truly grateful!


    Because they have instilled behaviors in me that I carry to this day, good behaviors that continue to serve me well both personally and professionally. They have taken me to some awesome heights and saved me from so much pain.

    And because of that, I have systematized some of my reflection processes into usable tools. Tools I can use over and over again for continuous improvement—both for myself and my coaching clients. 

    So What Is Reflection In Business?

    Let’s start by defining reflection. 

    Simply put, reflection is a process of learning from the past to improve the future—your future!

    In business, this is critical—nothing worse than continuing to make the same mistakes repeatedly and expecting that things will improve.

    Busyness does not equal Business
    Busyness does not equal Business!

    Busyness does NOT equal business!

    Or worse yet—and, this one drives me nuts—is to do something that worked really well, only never to do it again.

    Why wouldn’t you keep doing it until it stopped working? That makes no sense to me; Yet, I see small businesses making that mistake all the time.

    As any small business owner who has coached with me over the years will tell you, I don’t tolerate that behavior. I am quick to call them out on it. Why? Because it is the right thing to do!

    I certainly would want someone to call me out if needed—so long as they were coming from a space of love and not hate.

    Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    Two Simple Reflection Tools You Can Use Immediately

    Now that we are clear on what reflection is, let me introduce you to two of my favorite reflection tools:

    1. Lessons Learned
    2. Tolerations

    I shit you not. If you formally use these tools regularly, first, your distractions will go down—way down—and second, your focus will go up—way up.

    The bottom line—both you and your business will level up!

    Reflection Tool #1: Lessons Learned

    What is "Lessons Learned"

    The idea behind the Lessons Learnedexercise is to ultimately get you to do more of what is working and do less of what is not… plain and simple!


    Identifying, analyzing, and celebrating our breakthroughs reminds us that to one degree or another, as small business owners, we have been productive—we have seen growth—our efforts are not in vain!  

    The successes are there. Be sure not to overlook them and the psychological impact they can have on you.


    By identifying, analyzing, and coming to terms with our breakdowns, we can move past them to bigger and better things! 

    Unidentified and unaddressed breakdowns that are left to fester will hinder your ability to focus on what really matters in your business—it is clutter

    If you find yourself constantly stressed and putting out fires in your business, your breakdowns likely need attention.

    WhEN TO USE "Lessons Learned"

    This reflection tool is very versatile—use it as needed. However, some recommended occasions would be:

    • On an Event Basis. Following any events such as a conference you attended, a trade show you had a booth at, a networking event you attended, etc.
    • On a Time Basis. Each day, week, month, quarter, or year to recap what transpired during that period.

    Lessons Learned: How to Reflect Your Way to Success

    Reflection Tool #2: Tolerations

    What is "Tolerations"

    Yes, it’s unfortunate. However, “energy vampires” exist all around you, constantly draining you of the precious energy needed to be your best.

    These so-called “energy vampires” can show up in various forms… people, places, things, circumstances, experiences, etc.

    The basic premise behind the “Tolerations” exercise is to identify and eliminate tolerations so you can move ahead… unimpeded.

    The 6-Step tolerations process is as follows:

    1. Acknowledge that you are tolerating stuff.
    2. Identify what you are tolerating in both your personal and professional life.
    3. Evaluate each toleration individually and decide whether to “Accept,” “Mitigate,” or “Eliminate” it.
    4. Prioritize the tolerations.
    5. Plan to eliminate each one (in priority order).
    6. Take Massive Action!


    This reflection tool is also very versatile– Use it as needed. Some recommended occasions would be:

    • When Your Business Is Stuck— Use this reflection tool to find and take action on the drag on your forward process.
    • When Your Energy Is Low– Use this reflection tool to get clear on why to eliminate the root cause.
    • When You Simply Want More– Use this reflection tool to attack any toleration stragglers slowing you down.

    How to Eliminate Tolerations in Your Business

    Let's Wrap This Up...

    So hopefully, by now, if you’ve read this far, you can see the power of using reflection in your business (and life). 

    The key here is making it a regular practice. 

    Remember, time spent in reflection mode is an investment in yourself. Be careful here, though. You can overthink it—and overdo it.

    It’s the old getting ready to get ready syndrome I’m referring to here—paralysis of analysis, so to speak.

    My experience shows that when done correctly, it will be some of the best training and enlightenment you will ever receive.

    I highly recommend working with a coach on this—at least initially. A great small business coach can properly guide you through the reflection process, hold you accountable as needed, and help you find your meeting rhythm for using these tools in your business (and life).

    One step backward, ten steps forward. Here’s to your success!

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    The Dean Mercado Company helps growth-minded entrepreneurs optimize and scale their business.


    128 Millport Circle, Suite 200
    Greenville, SC 29607
    ☏ +1 (631) 333-7436

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