“It’s OK,” is the supportive response. “Everybody makes mistakes.”
While this is true, the fact that we all have our moments is often reluctantly accepted. Have you ever noticed this advice is more easily delivered when the dreaded screw up happened to the other guy and not ourselves or one of our children? The encouraging tone falls a little flat when we are staring at the dented fender of our car courtesy of the newly permitted driver watching tv in the family room.
But when every corner billionaire is touting his life cycle of miscues as his blueprint for eventually buying his own island, it’s hard to be convinced that at the root of every mistake lies a seed of wisdom.
Founder of Bridgewater Associates and neighborhood billionaire, Ray Dalio, was quoted, “I learned that there is an incredible beauty to mistakes, because each mistake was probably a reflection of something that I was doing wrong, so if I could figure out what that was, I could learn how to be more successful.”
Sure, that’s easy for him to say. When he makes mistakes, he can pay somebody to take the fall. But, could the late night infomercials be true? Could the learning value buried deep within silly mistakes apply to commoners as well as the rich and mighty?
As a bright-eyed beginning skier, my first experience with an instructor was a prompt face plant in the freshly groomed powder.
“You are going to fall,” he explained in a way only a discouraged seven-year-old novice could understand.
“An important part of learning this sport is knowing how to get up when you fall down.”
My unceremonious splattering all over the bunny slope illustrates how you improve by challenging yourself and learning from your mistakes. Eventually, you are going to fall. It’s the only way one can progress to the next level of ability. In life, those mistakes often have consequences. So this painful and embarrassing process is two-fold. First, you experience the setback, which is followed by the lesson; your kids refer to this as “punishment.”
As a parent, how can wading through our mistakes and witnessing the flub ups of our young people encourage a maverick to emerge brimming with self-confidence and a vision of imminent success?
According to experts, honest mistakes (those events that truly were unanticipated by said flub-upper) bring to light three benefits.
1. Mistakes uncover flaws
Do we procrastinate? Are we failing in successfully managing our time? Are we lacking self-awareness of our abilities? Are we overwhelmed thus making hasty decisions? Are we reacting to outside influences? Mistakes uncover those character flaws that hinder our progress and force us to waste time cleaning up our messes. In the aftermath, you have a choice; address the root that keeps causing these mistakes to happen or grab a bucket and start cleaning.
2. Mistakes encourage viewing the end result with different choices
Most mistakes happen because of at least three things, a) we simply did not think things through, b) we didn’t have all of the information we needed to make the best decision, c) we didn’t care and embraced denial as our friend thus refusing to believe anything bad could possibly happen based on our choices.
As a result, I am now looking at a golf ball-sized hole in my wall because somebody thought trying out their driver in the house would be fine, a project from work that won’t balance because I was missing an all-important memo summarizing instructions, and half of my car is blue when, just yesterday, it was tan. Still waiting for an explanation on that one.
3. Mistakes are the country cousins to second chances
What is a popular response to an exposed mistake? A desire to remedy. How can I make this right? How can I make this mistake go away? Sometimes the solution is an easy fix. Other times it requires a pound of flesh and future draft picks.
If nothing else, the reward may be the realization that while you may not have the complete answer, at least you know of one more option that definitely will not work. Some days, I’ll take that as a good thing.
And during those times when you can’t make it right, take your lumps, hope for forgiveness, accept the outcome and rebuild on a smarter, more solid foundation.
Making mistakes stink. They are commonly the culprit behind poor academic performance, sudden career changes, squandered fortunes, abandoned dreams, lost loves, injury, even death. Yet, mistakes are an interwoven part of us. They help define us either through the experience or in spite of it. Either way, mistakes are here to stay. And if we can identify value in those experiences—that’s a good thing. Make no mistake.