Mistakes: Life's Higher Education

This article was written by GaryK, on June 15, 2011

Making a mistake here or there might actually be good for you. Granted, not all mistakes are good things. Certain mistakes for say chemists or those who assemble warheads may be disastrous – but for the rest of us they may actually be a good thing in a roundabout way. When you were younger, did you ever have a parent or a friend advise you not to date a certain someone? How did that go? It made you want to date them even more. Later you learned that, as much as you hated to admit it, the person who tried to warn you was right. Apply the same scenario to a financial decision you have made in the past – or a job offer you either did or did not take. Now think about those situations. Did you learn more from the times you received advice or maybe even read up on the subject in question? Or did you learn more from the times you made a bad decision and had to face some sort of consequence? A mistake can be a very, very valuable thing. Making a few honest mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. In our efficiency-minded modern world, we are expected to be on our game all the time. Because of this, many of us who are eager to please can be stressed by the worry of making an honest mistake. Not only is this not healthy, it can smother creativity and our natural desire to try new things. If we let our fear of making mistakes dominate our thoughts, we think only inside the box. What a horrible thing that would be. Thankfully, history is full of wonderful examples of pioneers and risk takers who weren’t paralyzed by a fear of failing. Think Columbus, Lewis & Clark, Edison…you get the idea. In fact, Here’s a short list of people who made honest efforts and failed pretty badly…at first.

1. Bill Gates. Microsoft was not his first attempt. Ever heard of Traf-O-Data? Google it. It didn’t go well. Good thing he learned from his mistakes and tried again.

2. Walt Disney. He was once fired by his boss at a newspaper because he lacked imagination.

3. Albert Einstein. The classic example everyone knows – he was introverted and didn’t speak until he was almost four. People thought he had a mental disability.

4. Abraham Lincoln. You may have heard that he lost many elections at many different levels and that he was unsuccessful at business. What you may not know is that when he was young he went to war a captain and came home a private.

5. Jerry Seinfeld. So he’s no Lincoln or Gates, but he is one of the most successful comedians in history. He never finished his first set. He was heckled and booed off the stage.

6. Thomas Edison. Teachers thought he was stupid in school…and his early employers agreed. He was fired several times before finding his groove.

7. Henry Ford. Before his success with his motor company, his first five attempts at business failed leaving him broke five times.

So by all means – do your best to be efficient. Try not to make mistakes. But when an honest mistake occurs, look for the lesson in it. Beat yourself up for it briefly if you must, but don’t let it stifle your enthusiasm or confidence. Take something of value from it and get better because of it.

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