The Truth About Mistakes…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s OK to make mistakes. We’re human.

It ceases to be OK when we keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

What have we learned if we keep repeating our failures?

In fact, when it comes to failures, Woody Allen once said: “If you’re not failing every once and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” So mistakes can actually be good – forcing upon us not only learning opportunities, but signaling that we are not afraid to try something new or a new way of doing the same old things. By doing so, we elevate our risk of falling flat on our face, yes, but we’re also staying fresh and current and expanding our skills and professional and personal horizons.

Think of it like this: We have to crawl and teeter and even tumble before we can run. Baby Usain Bolt didn’t leap out of his mom’s arms sprinting 23 MPH. Likewise, though Yo-Yo Ma undisputedly has a natural musical talent, he wasn’t born a globally-acclaimed cellist.

That being said, in some respects we need to embrace our mistakes as, after all, it’s better than getting stale and refusing to try anything new.

Beyond that, we need to acknowledge the mistake. Because while it might be valuable to make that mistake once, you don’t want to have history repeat itself. Though it was incredibly hard, I had to admit my mistake before I could move on to repair the damage to a client relationship that meant so much to me. And that’s just one of many that I’ve made. So I know it can be tough. But if you’re brave enough to try something new in the first place, you need to also have the courage to admit that you’ve erred.

Sometimes you’ve got to fail big, and fail loud.

Again, to the art of learning from our failures, it is from these situations that lessons emerge which we are unable to forget. Though I know from personal experience how painful these lessons can be, in the end these experiences are not only necessary but highly impactful.

Think of when you were a child and skinned your knee on a bike? You may have experienced trepidation the next time you jumped on the seat, but pretty soon you were back to cycling with abandon and a lot more skill.

Just as we got back on that bike as little kids, you musn’t let missteps keep you from offering your contribution to the world.  What if the Superbowl MVP quarterback refused to play another down after throwing an interception? Or a renowned surgeon abandoned the practice of medicine after one bad outcome?

Please don’t let a mistake – or the fear of making one – paralyze you.

It really comes down to reinventing how we think about failure with a) the importance of embracing your errors as, hey, after all, you’re trying something new! and b) the importance of admitting and learning from these errors.

Take these two gems with you as you go forth, and fail spectacularly (just don’t make it the same failure time and time again, please!):

“Mistakes are the usual bridge between inexperience and wisdom.” (Phyllis Theroux).

“An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” (Orlando A. Battista).


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