Learn from Experience photo from ShutterstockOf course, hindsight is 20-20.

How often have you said:

If I knew then what I know now.

After the fact we can all see the situation and adjust the way “would have” reacted… If only we had known then what we know now.

Using Hindsight before it Happens

Of course, people cannot experience something before it happens. Sure, there are fantasies of time travel from H.G. Wells “The Time Machine” to J.K. Rowling’s “Time Turner” in the Harry Potter books and movies. But for most humans we can only experience something as it happens. (Side Note: If there are some people out there with the ability to do time travel… they aren’t sharing their secret.)

However, there is a caveat to this. We can leverage, extend and learn from the experiences of others. Such that we can avoid the drudgery (or risks) associated with some tasks and focus on the more positive outcomes (based, of course, on each persons perspective). In this way, humans can (and do) stand on the shoulders of giants.

One advantage humans have is that we document things. We scribe on cave walls. We make Instagrams and Vines.

We make it so others don’t have to make all the same steps (both Mistakes and Victories). We can learn from their hindsight.

Imagine it Before it Happens

Almost everyone dreams of the ideal situation we want to occur when we are getting ready to do something. Whether it’s to ask someone on a date or to ask for a raise or to ask for the order.

My suggestion is… Keep imagining. Imagination is a powerful motivator. Imagine on a grand scale… then make it a reality.

One way to do this is to write it down. Write down your expectations for the ideal scenario. Write down the steps you will take to achieve those expectations. Write down the steps the other people involved should take too. This way you can imagine the conversation from both sides.

Pro Tip: Consider Alternatives. Imagine beyond the ideal situation. Think sideways and backways and slantways. Imagine what other scenarios may be possible. You’ll never come up with all of them, but having a Contingency Plan is wise.

When going through your imagination process never forget to consider the best interests of any others involved. That’s what will motivate them. Think about and always consider their atavistic self interests. See my post on The Secret to Your Success for more on this topic. Of course, don’t discount your own self-interests.

Document your Response before it Happens

One way to insure you use hindsight to empower your foresight is to take the time to document what you want to happen. In some senses this step has an impact as a positive reinforcement cycle. It’s a bit of a self-affirmation.

For example, if you are in sales you may want to remind yourself to ask the prospective customer if there is anything else you can do for them. This is an open ended question that could lead to add-on sales. A simple note on the back of your notebook or at the top of your sales order form can remind you. It’s as simple as that to document your response before it happens.

Do this both for predictive and reactive situations. Predictive in the sense that you already know what the likely answer will be. Be prepared for it and re-direct as needed. Reactive in the sense that the situation may be very fluid and dynamic. This is where your Contingency Plan may come into play.

Why? To test your hypothesis and to see how you did. The whole point of using Hindsight to Build Your Foresight is to imagine possibilities, document what you think might happen, execute a plan, then compare your results to your documented plan. Simple!

When done consistently and when you review your expectations compared to your results your “hindsight” can be used to develop your foresight.

What’s Past is Prologue

From Shakespeare we get this simple yet wise statement. It works quite well in A Hindsight is Foresight view of the world. Both statements mean that history influences and sets the context for the present.

That’s It!

Use your experiences (your hindsight) to develop a predictable and repeatable model of engagement for whatever endeavors your are pursuing. When you do this you will be able to create a model that develops your ability to create and envision better foresight. It may seem like magic to some, but you’ll know that it was the result of carefully documenting what you wanted to happen then comparing the actual results to the expectations. When you do this consistently you will be sought after for your skills as someone who thinks through projects to the nth degree. Which will help you in your efforts to build your reputation, increase your authenticity, and to stand out in your career.

I predict some of you will try this idea and find great successes. When you do please let me know in the comments.