The True Meaning of Mistakes

I must admit I don’t like making mistakes. I especially don’t like making stupid mistakes by overlooking obvious warning signs or mistakes that come from a lack of planning. But most of all I hate making the same mistake twice. 

I also must admit that I need to make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of success. Every success story I’ve ever been a part of needed mistakes to grow stronger and achieve ultimate success. I believe that overcoming mistakes on the path to success helps people maintain that success when additional challenges arise.

People who never make mistakes had better be comfortable with the status quo. They will seldom stumble upon innovative ideas or solutions. They prefer complaining to risking the possibility of a mistake while looking for something better. 

They think a mistake is the equivalent of failure. Mistakes are actually irrefutable proof that you’re chasing after something better. Mistakes are not a sign that you’ve done something wrong, they are in fact the evidence that you’re doing something right. 

Mistakes mean you’re either searching for or are already on the path to success.

I’m not recommending that anyone intentionally make mistakes. I’ve never found the need to be intentional when it comes to mistakes, they just show up on their own. They often show up at the worst possible times and when we least expect them. Well okay,  they don’t exactly show up on their own. I frequently “invite” them into my life by pretending “that” won’t happen to me or thinking I’m too smart to make the same mistake a billion other people have made. 

Never “double-up” on a mistake by denying it. When you’ve made a mistake admit it quickly and if you need help to fix it then ask. Admitting a mistake does not make you look weak. It demonstrates that you have the courage to acknowledge it. It shows you intend to overcome whatever roadblocks the mistake may have created. 

Stare down your mistakes by looking them in the eye. Before too long you may see them smiling back at you and you’ll realize how much help they have been.

The Best School in the World

Almost every successful person in the world attended this school. I should probably remove that “almost” qualifier and say every successful person. It is a tough school with lessons so difficult they often seem insurmountable. Some people, the less successful types, don’t even have the courage to walk through the virtual doors of this school. 

 

It’s the school known as “The School of Hard Knocks.” Some people call it the school of life.

 

For those of you unfamiliar with this school it isn’t found in a building. It’s not located in any particular place. The school never closes, not even when you want it to. When you’re trying something new or working your butt off to succeed you can find yourself in this “school” with no notice. All of the sudden it just happens!

 

The “classes” taught there can be very challenging but once learned they tend to stay with you forever. They are frequently life changing. They are most often self-taught. The “tests” associated with these classes can leave scars that last a long time. Some of the scars can be seen but many of them are only felt. But the feeling can be incredibly painful. 

 

These lessons cannot be bought, they must be earned. As difficult as they can be I’d encourage anyone to attend “The School of Hard Knocks” because some of life’s best lessons are taught there. It seems as if that Hard Knocks place is the one that shows you how to use all those fancy degrees and formal education you received from the other schools.


Don’t shy away from life’s tough lessons. The stuff you learn in a school with four walls can help you make a living but the stuff you learn outside those walls can help you make a life.


Are You Making This Mistake?

Mistakes happen, everyone knows that. Everybody makes mistakes, even you, even me as a matter of fact. I actually never go too long between mistakes. Most are small and I’m the only one who knows about them. Some are large and lots of people find out about them and every once in a while I make a mistake in front of large groups of people. The mistakes in front of groups are almost always the result of talking and then thinking of what to say later.

 

Your next mistake might be just around the corner. I’m sure you don’t like to think about making mistakes but here’s a couple of thoughts that may help you avoid making one of the most common mistakes of all.

 

The first thing to keep in mind is that it is not a mistake to make a mistake. My dad used to tell me that the only people that never make a mistake are the ones who never try. Mistakes provide us with a real learning opportunity. They can show us what not to do and sometimes provide us with clues on what we should do.

 

An absolute key to learning from a mistake is to admit the mistake to ourselves. No one has ever learned from a mistake they were unwilling to admit to themselves. If that sounds like a cliche it’s because it is. Like most cliches however it is rooted in fact. Since we haven’t admitted a mistake we’re much less likely to review our actions to see where we went wrong.  People who refuse to even acknowledge their mistakes can’t ask for help because that would require admitting a mistake. 

 

Here’s the second key to “mistaking well” – when you make a mistake, and have admitted to yourself, then admit it to others also. Don’t hide it. Accept personal responsibility for it then and there. If you’re honest with yourself, a key to success all by itself, you know when you’ve made a mistake. The sooner you admit it to others the less likely you are to make a second mistake by blaming someone else. So admit it to yourself and then admit it to others too. Don’t kid yourself they may have even known about the mistake before you did.

 

Denying your mistake or even worse, blaming your mistake on someone else almost always makes things worse. It eliminates your chances of getting help to fix the mistake. It makes you look like a knucklehead to everyone who knows it’s your mistake. Denying a mistake often causes you to make even more mistakes when you’re trying to cover up the mistake you don’t want people to know you made.

 

Never make this common mistake of not admitting your mistake. Admit your mistake and reach out for help. People admire people who have the confidence to admit they can be wrong and the confidence to admit that someone else may know something they don’t.


If you have the confidence to mistake well then it’s also likely that you have the confidence you need to eventually succeed.

Decisions Decisions

If you’re a leader then you make many decisions during a year. Some are big and some not so big. But every decision changes something, assuming of course that the decision was acted on. 

I don’t often suggest taking long looks in the rear view mirror but every now and then it serves a purpose. This is the time of year for looking back. A little self-reflection can help you remember some of the lessons of the past year that you may have forgotten.

So while you’re in reflection mode ask yourself, “What decisions that I made in the last year would I like to take back?”

It’s probably not a lot of fun to rehash decisions that didn’t turn out as planned but it can be a valuable exercise. You’ll want to look at the information you used to make the decision. It’s worth noting where the information came from and if you were alone in the decision or if your team agreed with you.

You want to pay particular attention as to whether the actual decision was flawed or if the mistake was in the execution. By the way, the biggest mistake of all is making a decision and then not acting on it…just sayin’.

Reflections on past decisions should be a learning experience. It’s not an opportunity to assign blame to anyone, it’s an opportunity to learn and to avoid the same mistake in the future.

If you discover that there are too many decisions that you would make differently then you know you’ve really grown throughout the year. Your short time of self-reflection should give you the opportunity to use that growth to have an even more successful 2017. 

But remember, you have to first acknowledge a poor decision before you can possibly learn from it.

Think about that too!

 

The Best Kind of Mistake

Everybody makes mistakes. The most successful people admit to them quickly.

The best kind of mistake you can make is one that you learn from. The worst mistakes are the ones you won’t admit. Those are the worst mistakes because you are very unlikely to learn anything from a mistake that you don’t have the courage to admit. 

Yes, I said courage because most of us have been taught that mistakes are bad, mistakes are shameful and mistakes lead to failure. If you’ve been taught that your entire life then it indeed takes courage to stand up and say that you messed up.

If you “secretly” know that you’ve made a mistake it’s a pretty safe bet that other people know it too, or they will soon enough. If you’ve made a mistake the first step in learning from it is to admit it, admit it to yourself and anyone else that needs to know. You don’t need to announce it to the world but don’t try to hide it from people close to you either.

Mistakes are inevitable and if you spend time with people who expect you to be perfect then you may want to find some other people to spend time with.

To learn from a mistake you must also understand the difference between a reason and an excuse. If you are very good at finding excuses for your mistakes then you won’t be very good at learning from them. If you understand the reasons for your mistakes then you have a chance to learn. 

One way to find the reason for a mistake is to understand the difference between an actual mistake and a bad decision. First of all, if you’ve made the same “mistake” several times it likely isn’t a mistake at all, it’s a poor decision. Mistakes repeated again and again are actually choices and to avoid these “mistakes” you must simply make better choices. 

For instance, in most cases being late for work isn’t a mistake. It resulted from a bad decision, either to stay up too late, to sleep in too long at just not leave home soon enough. If you don’t want to be late then make a decision to leave home earlier.

It’s also important to understand that not all mistakes are the result of something you’ve done. Many mistakes come from doing nothing, nothing at all. Some people fear mistakes so much that they won’t make decisions for fear of making a bad one. They fail to understand that not making a decision IS a decision and it is the wrong decision in almost every circumstance. You can learn from both types of mistakes but mistakes born out of inaction often seem to be far more expensive to fix.

Learn to view your mistakes as opportunities for growth. Don’t go out of your way to make mistakes but don’t hide from trying new things to avoid them either. 

If you’re only making little mistakes then you’re probably not pushing the edges of your comfort zone enough. Growth doesn’t come from repeatedly doing what we are good at, it comes from trying new things. Allow yourself a mistake now and then and when mistakes happen embrace them as an opportunity to discover a better way of doing something. 

You may think that never trying new things protects you from mistakes but if your goal is to grow then not attempting something new is the biggest mistake you can make. 

Never make that mistake! 

 

Think About This

When was the last time you stopped to think? I mean think, really really think. When was the last time you turned off, completely off, all your gadgets, screens, and computer to just sit quietly in thought?

If you’re like most people it’s probably been a long time, a very long time. Thinking, really thinking, about yourself, your life, and your legacy has never been harder. That little helper you carry around everywhere you go (some people call it a Smartphone) robs you of truly quiet time. 

These days “thinking” is too often equated with day dreaming and it’s frowned upon. If you have time to think then apparently you aren’t productive enough. If you have time to think then you have extra “bandwidth” and you should be doing something real with it, not wasting it thinking.” That’s what bad bosses and poor leaders believe anyway.

The fact is thinking, truly thinking, can be one of the most productive activities you will ever do. I’m not talking about becoming “lost in thought,” just the opposite, I’m talking about being “found in thought.”

I suppose some people might call it critical thinking but I’m not smart enough to write about that. What I’m talking about is just slowing down enough and eliminating the distractions that are now so common we don’t even realize they are distractions, and just considering your life. 

Your phone is a distraction, the little noise your computer makes every time an email arrives is a distraction. The sound machine you use to block out distractions is a distraction. Great thinking requires silence and solitude, as in the absence of noise and distractions.

If fact, maybe reflection is a more accurate term then just thinking. Whatever you want to call it, maybe I’ll call it reflective thinking, just stopping everything else to think from time to time has real benefits. 

It helps you learn from your mistakes. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to dwell on their mistakes but investing at least a little time to reflect on how they happen helps ensure we don’t endlessly repeat them. Mistakes can be a great learning tool, if we stop long enough to consider how they happen and what to do differently next time. 

Thinking is where great ideas originate. Taking stock of where you are in life, in your relationships, in your career, and just in general provides you with a guide for planning your future. It’s really difficult to know how to get someplace if you don’t know where you are to begin with. You might get lucky and things will work out but I for one don’t really want to count on luck for my success.

Thinking gives you fresh perspectives. Everybody, well most everybody, likes a good pity party now and then. True reflection brings that to a halt pretty quickly. I’d hazard a guess that on your worst day you’re better off than most people. Life is made up of good and bad and if you invest your time thinking about the good you’ll see just how much good there really is to enjoy.

If you really want to invest some time in reflective thinking then you’ll need to develop some discipline to do. If you were to look at my calendar you would see 30 minutes, everyday, every single day, set aside for planning. That’s my time, it’s from 5:00-5:30am each morning. I’m the only one in the house awake at that time, there are no distractions and most of that time I’m just thinking. A good many of these blog posts are thought up during that time. I take just a few minutes looking back at yesterday to see what I need to be better at today. I make a plan to get closer to one of my goals that very day. The 30 minutes fly by.

I do it at the same time everyday, no matter what else is going on. It’s safe to say those 30 minutes are the most valuable minutes of my day and I rarely give them up for anything. 

What do you think about the idea of stopping everything just to think? If you have ever thought about doing it then set aside some time, some distraction free time, and give it a try today. Please don’t tell me that you don’t have time, I won’t accept that as an excuse. It’s a question of priorities, not time.

Oh, just one other little caveat…thinking is vital to success but all the thinking in the world does little good if it isn’t followed up by doing. 

Don’t Worry About Mistakes and Problems

Mistakes and problems have much in common. One (mistakes) will very often cause the other (problems). No one likes either, we complain about problems and we dislike mistakes, so much so that we often refuse to admit making one. 

The other thing that mistakes and problems have in common is that less successful people seem to dwell on them. They linger much longer than is required to learn from a problem and sometimes they hang onto a mistake (usually someone else’s) as if it were a treasured heirloom. 

Successful people learn from their mistakes. The most successful people learn from the mistakes of others. Successful people see a problem as something to be tackled and overcome. The most successful people see a problem for what it is, an opportunity to come out of a situation better than they went into it.

Some people worry about problems, successful people worry about how to solve them. The most successful people don’t worry….. they know mistakes and problems will happen and they develop plans, in advance, to correct and overcome them.

The most successful people also know this simple fact: you are unlikely to ever fix a mistake you won’t admit was made and you’ll never overcome a problem you refuse to acknowledge exists. 

Dale Carnegie said that when we make a mistake we should admit it “quickly and emphatically.” Denying your mistake is another mistake; it makes it hard for others to help you. When we accept our part in a mistake and acknowledge it then others can be more willing to help us fix it. 

That means that the first step in fixing a mistake is admitting it. Acknowledge it, be specific, be honest and straightforward. Be brief as well, you’re admitting a mistake not making a speech. There is no need to make the mistake bigger than it is as a show of contrition. Accept your responsibility, apologize if an apology is called for and move on.

Problems for the most part are dealt with “automatically.” You see a problem, something doesn’t work right, you either fix it or get it fixed. You run out of something around the house you go and get more.  Most people deal with problems all the time, the little ones we don’t even really call a problem. By the way, if you have a solution it is in fact NOT a real problem.

What are real problems however are the situations that we don’t know how to deal with. Problems may also be something we do know how to deal with but it’s too unpleasant or uncomfortable for us to tackle. So we avoid it. 

There are lots of good problem solving strategies to be found on the web but let me offer you the most important one here.

Do not ignore any problem hoping it with go away on it’s own. Do not hope “no one notices” or “no one finds out.” Somebody will notice and somebody will find out. Big problems were once just little problems that were ignored or hidden. Problems do not normally fix themselves. Problems do not magically disappear and they do not typically grow smaller. 

Delay and procrastination are the fertilizers that little problems need to grow into big ones. Solve the problem the moment you know how to solve the problem, once you have a solution there is no logical reason to delay.

The most successful people don’t fertilize their problems, they eradicate them! How about you?