Accepting mistakes does not mean we condone sloppy work.
Acknowledge, take ownership of, and grow from your mistakes
and you will definitely not be ordinary.
Back in 2008, I selected five of my previously recorded songs, had them burned to a “best of” disc for marketing purposes and then sent copies to selected colleges and corporations. I titled the CD “Be Brief, Be Bright, Be Gone. Energize Your Next Meeting.”
Feeling very proud, I showed my musical marketing tool to a colleague. She smiled and then asked, “What’s Engergize?”
“Oh,” I said a bit confused, “you mean Energize.”
“No, right here, it says Engergize,” as she pointed to the CD cover.
My heart sank. Sure enough, there was a spelling error. In the title of the CD. That I had already sent out to about thirty university and corporate leaders.
The CD had been reviewed by three sets of eyeballs—and still the mistake reared its ugly misspelled head.
Are you kidding me?
Fast forward to last week when I sent out my latest newsletter. Again, this was reviewed probably four or five times. Once it “went live” I saw it—the error. In the first line of the newsletter.
Are you freaking kidding me?
I immediately started to beat myself up about it. My bride did what she could to calm me done—but I persisted in the self-flagellation. Finally, I took a walk with my dog, Roxie.
“Look,” Roxie said to me with those big brown eyes, “you made a mistake. Look at the big picture. You just sent out a newsletter with twenty free resources relating to growth and resilience. If someone gets whacked about a small error—and does not even see the good stuff you provided, then maybe you don’t need that unforgiving person on your list.”
Point well-taken. There are people who live to tell everyone else what they did wrong—while they remain in their safely-constructed cocoon.
Brené Brown writes about the power of shame and vulnerability. Seth Godin reminds us that we can make a mistake as we attempt to “invent our future” or mistakenly stay safely within the status quo—afraid of what might happen. Don’t send out that CD or newsletter; something bad might happen; you might look foolish.
Accepting mistakes does not mean we condone sloppy work. And certainly some mistakes can be deadly, literally. My guess is that what most of us engage in each day would not fall into the “deadly” category. Unless, of course, by deadly you mean embarrassing, awkward, or humbling.
Accepting and learning from mistakes leads to growth. Avoiding ever making a mistake is a fool-hardy and growth limiting endeavor.
A recent Psychology Today article, reported that
“Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks;
they need to be certain about things. For many of them,
failure is seen as catastrophic and unacceptable.
External measures of success are more important than learning and autonomous development.”
The author further noted that decreasing levels of student resilience is “thwarting the emotional and personal development of students.”
That is sad and concerning. If pervasive (and, anecdotally, I saw it with regularity in my classes) what does it mean for our students and our workplaces after graduation?
And it’s not just the students. There are plenty of so-called leaders who will not accept anything that may smack of weakness. In their view a mistake is equated with deficiency, failing, and ineptitude. The transformational leaders encourage their followers to fail, learn, and grow. They understand.
Selfies scream look at how unique I am. Have we moved to a space that “fears being ordinary”? Acknowledge, take ownership of, and grow from your mistakes and you will definitely not be ordinary.
Video recommendation of the week:
A not-so unusual response to a mistake is to blame someone else.
As I’ve stated on this blog before, don’t let “perfection” and “disappointment” rule. Don’t let fear of being wrong, making a misstep or committing (shutter!) a mistake keep you from your destiny.
You have so much more to offer yourself and those around you.
Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.
You can subscribe to my (mostly) error-free newsletter by clicking here.
You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts).
Check out my website (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).
My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.
(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.
Steve, this is an excellent post! I have two thoughts to offer:
1. One of my favorite conductors, Benjamin Zander, describes an excellent practice for handling mistakes in his book The Art of Possibility. Zander says that when we fail, we tend to pull the body down, make ourselves small. Instead, we should throw our arms into the air and shout, “How fascinating!” because the mistake has just as much to teach us as the success.
2. As an English teacher, I see firsthand the problem of “counting errors” — especially the kind you describe in this post. Too many of my students assume that they have nothing worthwhile to contribute because their writing is riddled with grammar errors. While teaching Standard English is important for many professional and social reasons, error-counting for its own sake is a nasty practice. Meaningful errors come in patterns, and accidental errors aren’t worth sweating over.
We are all drafts, and life is a process of constant revision.
Thanks for the book recommendation. Love the idea of stretching out rather than “hunkering down.” Great visual. And you make a great point about “grading” papers…I had to make a concerted effort not to get caught up in negative redlining. Had to use the red pen for positive comments as well. Appreciate your response.
This is one of the best things about getting older (and there are plenty of good things). I feel so comfortable with me…all of me…the flaws, the mistakes and not letting those take away my joy or happiness. Thanks for always being a ray of sunshine. Maryann
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