On Mistakes

Saturday I held an online class teaching outsourcing and how to get your first mobile app created. I ran through the presentation earlier in the day. I tested the recording system I’d be using and I made a note to “press record” before starting the presentation. You can probably guess what happened next.

The class rolled around, I began my presentation, and an hour later I finally noticed I hadn’t pressed record.

At first I was pretty upset.

“Ahh, I already did the presentation twice today and now I need to do it again!”

But then I looked at it as an opportunity.

“I could make the presentation tighter if I re-recorded it. I know I talk fast and was probably unclear a few times. And maybe more people will show up if I do it live again. Saturday mornings aren’t exactly the best times for stuff like this. Or I could record it solo and it would come out better because I wouldn’t feel the pressure of a live presentation.”

On the surface it might seem like I made a big amateur mistake. Maybe I did. But in mistake lies opportunity. I won’t say it’s easy to look at it from this point of view. The reality is I had no choice. A recording of the presentation was promised to everybody who signed up for it so I could either continue being upset at my mistake or reframe it into something useful.

This “mistake” was also an opportunity to hone my presentation skills. Even though it’s not what I want to do with my life, I enjoy teaching. I haven’t done a whole lot of it in the past year and my presentation skills have regressed considerably.

I recognized a bevy of positive options that stemmed from one negative situation.

This isn’t something that happens innately. It’s a learned behavior. I’ve stated before that I consider myself a realist, not an optimist. I am also human (yup, it’s true) and humans have the wonderful ability to think, to make conscious choices.

I think about this a lot in regards to food. You know where meat comes from. Your steak, your burger, your chicken wings, they don’t come from healthy animals. They come from animals pumped with growth hormones (which are possibly passed on to you; all good if you’re Lance Armstrong), treated to living conditions you wouldn’t wish on members of al-Qaeda, and then viciously slaughtered. It’s like something out of Genesis. (Sadly, those links are the norm not the exception. If you haven’t seen them it’s much worse than you can probably imagine.)

But I digress. Whether it’s a mistake you made at work or school, or how you fill your dinner plate, you can choose how you feel through your actions. In situations where you’ve made a mistake you have two options. Feel bad or fix it. My preference is to feel bad for a short time – I pretend otherwise, but I’m not superhuman – and then fix it.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made a silly mistake and it won’t be the last time.

Oh, and as far as the people who were counting on you who you might’ve let down with your mistake? “Sorry, I messed up, I’m fixing it now!” That’s all it takes to win them back. If they don’t accept that then they’re not worth keeping around.

Here is your permission: make mistakes. Make mistakes, fix them, and make some more. We want to see what brilliant things you do when you put yourself in a position to make mistakes. And if it so happens that something goes south, chill out, we’ll forgive you.

9 Responses to On Mistakes

  1. I used to be a perfectionist (I still have some tendencies left, but I notice when they zap the joy and I release them). I was raised in abuse, so mistakes *couldn’t happen*. It is so refreshing to have released that–mistakes show me I am learning, and growing, and enjoying life. And the best part is encouraging *my children* to make them. I love your last paragraph–wonderful in all ways!

  2. Trying and failing is succeeding at trying. Heard that this weekend and thought it was pretty cool. I’m a huge fan of mistakes. The more I make, the more I learn.

  3. If you are not making mistakes, that means you are stagnating and have absolutely NO chance to grow. Which is the biggest mistake of all. It is a life wasted.

  4. Thanks Karol for the reminder that even website gurus lol make mistakes and that we are all human and there for have some flaws. We make mistakes and we move on. You either fix and learn from them or you dont and sometimes that is ok too.

  5. As you said, we are all human and we all make mistakes. It’s how we react to and deal with mistakes that is important.

    I feel the way you have dealt with it has been fantastic. Your apology combined with your goal to fix it is simple and admirable.

  6. Everyone tends to make mistakes. But as open-minded people, we should not focus on them but the lessons we have learned and how to make things better the next time.

    Great article, Karol.

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