Reading the title of this post it may sound I am being as foolish and narcissistic as someone who calls themselves a ‘stable genius’ but allow me to explain. I tell people not to make mistakes in their lives. This may sound like creating both unrealistic expectations, but also putting a lot of pressure on themselves. It would be if that meant trying to be perfect. That is not what we are advocating here. To understand what we mean by not making mistakes, we must first look at how the average person defines a mistake. It is usually an action or judgment that is wrong. Furthermore, it is something they spend a great deal of time regretting, agonizing over, beating themselves up about…you get the idea.
Margie will be the first to tell you that I, on occasion, make a judgement or take an action that is wrong. I know, hard to believe, but it is true. If that is true, however, how can I say that I do not make mistakes? To me it is the use of the word ‘mistake’ that is what is a mistake itself. I have learned a great deal of maintaining a positive outlook when I do something a little south of correct is to say, “I have not made a mistake. I have created a learning experience.” This may sound like a polite way of excusing yourself, but it is much more. When we view something as a mistake, we feel as though we have failed. We have done something wrong and that is it. When we say we have created a learning experience we not only eliminate a good deal of the negative connotation behind our actions, but create a possible positive outcome of our incorrect action.
Let take the action of doing something to upset your spouse. Let us say you used a word that really upset your spouse. You did not think it had such a negative meaning, but to them it was truly hurtful or offensive. You could, and should, apologize and let them know your intent was not to hurt them. This is what you would do with a mistake. A learning experience may be to inquire what a better way to express your feelings might be. To inquire why they find that word so hurtful. Maybe you came home a little later than expected and find your partner less than amorous. Again, begin with an apology. Then follow up with some questions that will turn this mistake into a learning experience. Did they want you to call even if it meant pulling over and adding a few minutes to being late? Should you have given yourself a little more wiggle room when stating what time you would be home? Almost any misunderstanding in any relationship can be turned into a learning experience to bring both parties closer. This is true as much for coworkers and friends as it is for intimate relationships.
How about mistakes at work? Those sure are fun aren’t they? You not only run the risk of looking foolish, but it may end up costing you the very source of income you rely on. By turning mistakes at work into learning experiences, you can actually become an employee the boss knows they can rely on. The first thing is to own your mistakes. A lot of people afraid of looking foolish or worried about what the boss may think of them, look for others to blame. This does not cast us in the best light. By taking responsible for your own mistakes the boss will realize you are someone who does not shy from responsibility and can be relied on to tell the truth. Following that up by stating what you will do better to avoid the mistake in the future as well as asking if there are any additional steps they would suggest will show you to be an employee who is committed to learning from their mistakes and always improving. These are opportunities you can only have when you do make a mistake. Do not go into work tomorrow looking to screw up, but when you do, turn it into a learning experience.
Saying and feeling we just make mistakes and do things wrong will leave us feeling depressed and not motivated to create an amazing life. Realizing every mistake that we make can set us up to learn new and interesting ways to improve both ourselves and our situations in life with at least soften the blow of the mistake. Practice this enough and you may find yourself seeing mistakes for what they truly are – stepping stones to success.
Today is another example of a picture being worth a thousand words. Picturing a clapperboard (do not worry if you did not know that is what this is called. I did not either before researching this post) like the one in the picture above as you go through life can be so helpful. I am personally pondering purchasing one or at the very least printing out this picture. We all make mistakes in life. After seeing this picture I am going to start referring to them as mis-takes. Did you make a mistake and say something that upset your friend/coworker/spouse? Turn it into a mis-take In your head you might want to do what directors do, as you are the director of your own life, and yell “Cut! Let us try that scene again.” In the movies when they do this they can then approach the scene with a better idea as to what they would like from the actors. You can do the same in life. Think I would like my star (that’s you if you are not following this analogy) to approach this scene with more compassion and understanding for the other actors involved. This works great if you said something that was not quite received the way you intended it. This happens to me more than I would like to admit. Just yell out loud or to yourself whichever happens to serve you better, “Cut! Let us try that scene again.” and try a different line. Famous actors in Hollywood and Baliwood do it all the time. Forgiving ourselves can not only be difficult, it can keep us from moving forward in a lot of areas of our lives. Using this movie analogy can certainly make that a lot easier. Viewing our mistakes as mis-takes will allow us to move forward a little easier. By making mistakes we will move forward with more knowledge as to what doesn’t work and thus be more likely to find what does. For those of you who do not know, I also have a YouTube channel I welcome you to check out and subscribe to. ( The link will be at the end of this post ) When I make videos when we do a second or third take I usually know a lot better how I want to approach the message I want to convey. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to research ‘clapperboard key chains’ on Amazon.
Welcome to Monday, a day most people dread. The work week is ahead of us and as many people fear, the opportunity to make mistakes. Personally, I don’t mind making mistakes. There are three wonderful, yes I said wonderful, things that come from mistakes.
First, like the picture said they are proof you are trying. There is no way to live a mistake free life. Sure, you could sit around and not do anything, but then you don’t live at all and in my mind that is the biggest mistake. We might misjudge, need to improve physically, mentally or emotionally. There are a million reasons why we might make mistakes. Maybe we just didn’t have all the information needed to make the correct decision or take the correct action. Not only is it proof we are trying, but it is an opportunity to learn. When we make mistakes we often think to ourselves such disempowering things as, “I can’t believe I did that!” or “I was so stupid for making that mistake!” What if you replaced those statements with ones such as, “Next time I know how I will do that!” or “I am so glad I learned how to do this. I will be better next time!” It is a totally different mindset. Mistakes are some of the best teachers. The third thing I think is wonderful about mistakes is that is provides us a unique opportunity to show our character. Owning up to mistakes and not letting them get you down shows that you have a strong character. You cannot display this unless you do make a mistake. Through showing what kind of character you have you can earn respect from others. Everyone loves and respects someone who owns up to their mistakes, don’t they? From now on let us put mistakes to work for us. It sucks when they happen, but we can turn them from a negative to a positive using the three examples above.
The phrase above translates to “my fault”. Last post we mentioned how even the most ‘enlightened’ or ‘self-evolved’ of us can trip up and do things we know we shouldn’t do. When this happens, when you don’t live up to your own standards it can be one of the worst feelings. Not only have you often hurt or let someone else down, but you have done so by doing something that is out of character. As a fabulous bonus, you can also come across as looking like someone who says one thing and does another. In short, a hypocrite.
So this has all been very inspiring hasn’t it? So you have done great on your goal for so long. You have not smoked, you have controlled your anger, you have been more positive, whatever your goal is. Then you slip up. You have a cigarette on a stressful day,or you blow up when someone seems to push just the right buttons. Maybe you find yourself in a very negative and depressed state? In the past because I worked so hard on being the best I can be, and trying to set a good example for others i would beat myself up for days when i let myself down. Being an author and motivational speaker it is also bad for business. Do you know what is worse, however? Not moving on. If you wish to continue to work on your goal of bring a non smoker,or whatever it might be, you do not want to begin again with a feeling a failure.
So what do you do? Take a step back, catch your breath and confidently say “I screwed up”. Trust me it is quite liberating. If you spend all of your time trying to come up with reasons or justification for your actions you can quite often look like someone who can’t admit they’re wrong at best, or drive yourself insane at the worst. Just own your temporary moment of insanity and strengthen your resolve to do better. Find a better way to deal with stress than lighting up. Try to be more compassionate when someone pushes your buttons. Saying “it’s my fault” not only frees you from spending wasted time trying to excuse your bad behaviour, but also shows you have the character to admit your wrong. Now just focus on making things right!
All of us make mistakes. What we do after will affect how much that mistake will affect us. The first thing we should do after making a mistake is own up to it. When you deny making any mistakes you actually separate yourself from others. When you own your failures as well as your successes you give yourself a lot more control. So we have got to the point of admitting that you are the one who made the mistake. What is the next logical step?
The next thing to do is to begin to put forth the effort to fix the mistake. If this mistake involves another person a good idea is to offer a heart felt apology. Let me pause for just a minute here to make a very important point. Saying your sorry is not the end of your job here. In fact, it is a very good beginning. I wrote a blog post quite some time ago called ‘A broken plate’. You are welcome to go back and read it, but for the sake of time I will give you the theme in a nutshell. There was a gentleman who kept hurting peoples feelings, apologized but did not change his actions. Eventually a wise teacher explained to him what was wrong by breaking a plate. He told the man to say he was sorry to the plate. He then asked if that did anything to put the plate back together. The man said “Of course not”. Which brings us to our next point.
Offering an explanation for your actions without making an excuse can help clear up any confusion in the future. Again, explaining why you broke the plate will also do little to put it back together. You must take actions to do so. In the plate example the man glued the plate back together. The teacher noted even though the plate was now back in one piece it was no longer the same. This can hold true of our mistakes. By taking actions to correct them, we can put things back together but we must understand there might be lingering issues. To this let me add one thing. I have read about a tradition of gluing broken pottery together using gold glue. That way the cracks then become something of beauty. In many ways this can be true of mistakes. When we own up to them, sincerely apologize, take action to correct them and work with the other parties involved to come up with a plan to avoid them in the future we can actually improve our relationships and grow closer.
Here is one other positive on making mistakes. It never feels good to say that you are the one who messed up, but know there are very few opportunities equal to this one to show the strength of your character as well as your dedication to making things right. Mistakes are one of the greatest opportunities we have for growth. We must take advantage of that. So next time you mess up, do not just say sorry and walk away. Think of what you can do to fix the damage and what you can do to avoid the same mistake in the future. Then you have just turned a mistake into a lesson.
I speak with people often on a variety of subjects. Sometimes people ask me about living a more positive and rewarding life. On occasion people ask me about my relationship and how they can also have a fabulous one. I also hear from people after my seminars and people who have read my book A Happy Life for Busy People here is something I hear a lot, “Neil I have tried to achieve this goal, but it didn’t work” I then asked them how many different things they have tried. Usually they look at me slightly confused and give me an answer ranging from one to three. I then share with them a fact I find truly amazing. Edison had tried over 10,000 different items to make a filament for a light bulb. When asked if he was upset by failing so many times he replied “I just learned 10,000 ways to not make a light bulb” I am not sure to many of us would try 10,000 times to make the perfect cake or a tasty dinner.
When trying to promote my book or seminars I often think of this story. How much further would we be set back if Edison had given up? How much longer would we be without the light bulb? You may say “well that’s not me, I couldn’t do that”. I am hear to tell you that you used to do it. What do I mean by that? Let me ask you this, how may times as a baby did you fall before you learned to walk? Did you give up and say “this walking thing might not be for me” You see all of us begin life with a determination to succeed at our goals. If we didn’t there would be a lot of adults out there crawling around.
So how do we develop a determination to match Edison? I believe the answer is two-fold. First, develop a strong enough why. If the reason to succeed is important enough to you the how will be found. Second, remember if you as a baby didn’t give up, why would the adult. Is it because we have learned to accept failure? Is it because it is easier to give up? Perhaps we are just not as focused on what we stand to gain by our success or lose by our giving up.
I am going to leave you with one thought and a quote to take away from this. The biggest area I hear this in is relationships. People tell me they tried to make their partners happy or bring the passion back to their relationship, but it just ‘didn’t work’. I always ask, how many things did they try? Think of how important your goal is, what you stand to gain and what you stand to lose. Think of all you didn’t give up on when you were young. Reading, writing, learning your language. How would your life be different if you had just tried once we these things? Remember if you find yourself giving up, even determination is something you have to be determined to succeed at.
Here is the quote I promised you. It comes from the famous baseball player Babe Ruth
“You just can’t beat the person who won’t give up”