Making Mistakes

Who hasn’t made a mistake? We all have at some point. We would all like to think that we are perfect but we all know that is impossible. Yet we all try our hardest not to make mistakes. Some of us even get very anxious about it to the point it paralyzes us from doing things. We get fearful of making a mistake. It might make us look bad and maybe even embarrass us. These thoughts, of course, come from deep beliefs that were probably ingrained in us since we were young children. We were told that making a mistake is a big mistake.  Remember the time you raised your hand in school ready to answer the teachers question only to have the wrong answer. What was your feeling about raising your hand for the next question?  I’m sure you were reluctant to do so.  

We have all heard the saying “learn from your mistakes.” And nothing could be truer. But sometimes we avoid making certain decisions or avoid taking certain actions for fear of making a mistake. It does depend on what the outcome of making a mistake is. If you’re a brain surgeon making a mistake can be quite catastrophic. The same goes for an airline pilot. But most of us are not in these type of situations where making a mistake would cause harm to you or others. If most of us make a mistake in our daily work, chances are, it will cost us some time or a small amount of money to fix it. In most cases the value of learning from the mistake is worth it. It is very important that you take this approach when you make mistakes. Ask yourself some questions. Like, what was the impact of this mistake? What could I have done to avoid it? How can it be fixed? What can I learn from it? Taking this approach will put the mistake behind you and move you forward in the process.  

If you’re going to take this approach when you make mistakes shouldn’t you do the same when others around you make mistakes? Of course you should. Nobody makes mistakes on purpose. So the next time someone makes a mistake instead of flying off the handle ask the same questions. Getting your employees and co-workers to do the same will help in ensuring that the mistake won’t repeat itself. Chances are, when analyzing mistakes you will find something wrong with the system or process. Or you may find the skill level of the individual performing the task was insufficient. Both of these can be fixed. Realize that it is not the fault of the individual themselves. Fix the system or improve the skill. 

Many people believe making mistakes is part of the formula for success. Consider this quote from Jack Welch – “I’ve learned that making mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.” Or how about this one from Ross Perot – “Punishing honest mistakes stifles creativity. I want people moving and shaking the earth and they're going to make mistakes.”

Consider where we would be of some of these folks didn’t make mistakes:

Thomas Edison —  Edison failed thousands of times before he found the proper filament for the light bulb that sustained light for a longer period of time.

Levi Straus —  Straus went to California to make a fortune by finding gold.  He didn’t do too well. But he did notice a gap in the market place and started making pants from canvas for other miners. I’m sure we’ve all owned a pair of Levi jeans in our lifetime.

Christopher Columbus —  Columbus was on his way to finding a new route to India. Until one of his crew members heard him mumble to himself  “that doesn’t look like India.”

So making mistakes can lead to great opportunities as you can see in these examples. You are going to make mistakes. So are the people around you.  The secret is knowing how to handle them.