Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Making mistakes doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human. Making mistakes gives you an opportunity to learn. Truth be told, you learn more from mistakes than from having everything go smoothly. So don’t allow a mistake, a failure or mis-step to derail you. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn the lesson and keep moving forward.
You can gain some of your greatest wisdom from mistakes you made previously. I’ll never forget this story. As a newly minted university grad, I joined a group of starry-eyed new grads at a company where we were positive we were about to change the world. Oh, the innocence of youth. One day, one of the guys in our little group made a colossal, career-ending mistake (in everyone’s opinion). He deleted the customer database that housed the data for thousands of customers!
When the rest of us found out what had happened, we all looked on in horror. We were sure this was going to lead to his firing and the end of his fledgling career. However, to our amazement, that was not what happened. Instead, his manager used it as a teaching moment. Rather than scold him or fire him or belittle him, he taught him what to do to recover the data. He coached him while he did it. Then he taught him how to prevent it from ever happening again. We all learned some valuable lessons that day:
- Making a huge mistake is not the end of the world, rather it is an opportunity to learn a great lesson – if you are humble enough to accept that you made a mistake and own up to it.
- How you treat someone who has made a big mistake can change their life for the better or for the worse. You have power in that moment and you should use it with grace and care.
I had always liked the manager in question but after that day my level of respect for him went off the charts. He saw the vulnerability in someone who had made a massive error and he didn’t use it as an opportunity to kick him when he was down. Instead, he showed compassion and patience in a moment when a young man’s confidence had suffered a devastating blow. In that moment, he chose to build up rather than tear down. He was able to teach our colleague much more in that one episode than just additional technical skills.
So, making mistakes, even huge ones, doesn’t have to mean the end of the world – if you learn from them. Where the problem arises is when you keep making the same mistake over and over. If you make it once, it’s a mistake. The second time, it’s a choice and thereafter it’s a habit. If you keep making the same mistake over and over it means you are not learning the lesson. Take a moment, step back and look at the situation(s) and ask yourself why you keep doing the same thing over and over. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Once you have identified the reason for your actions/choices you can make a conscious effort to change them. You have to be intentional about what you choose to do. I will discuss being intentional in a future post.