A wise person once told me, “Making mistakes is how we human beings learn.”
I spent most of my life trying to avoid mistakes and then beating myself up when I inevitably made them.
In hindsight, this was terribly arrogant of me, counterproductive, and a difficult way to live.
It was arrogant because to never make a mistake means to be perfect. The only beings arguably capable of being perfect are deities. Obviously, neither I nor any other humans are deities.
Avoiding mistakes is counterproductive because it substantially reduces opportunities to learn. The goal isn’t to avoid mistakes. The goal is, well… to pursue your goals.
The easiest way to avoid mistakes is to do nothing.
Beating yourself up for mistakes is a difficult way to live because it means either doing nothing with your life to avoid the self-flagellation or beating yourself up for your entire life. Neither is particularly enjoyable!
Upon much reflection of my many mistakes, I’ve come to the following thoughts on making mistakes:
1) Don’t focus on avoiding mistakes. Instead, focus on not repeating mistakes.
To make a mistake the first time is to learn. To repeat a mistake is just stupid. Don’t be stupid.
2) When you make a mistake, forget beating yourself up. Instead, focus on the lesson. What was flawed in your understanding of the situation, rationale, or your process? Skip the self-criticism, just fix the damn problem so you don’t repeat the mistake.
3) Don’t focus on avoiding mistakes. Instead, focus on reducing the cost of making mistakes. When mistakes have very little cost, go make many of them and learn a lot from them.
Athletes do something called “practice” before the Olympics. It allows them to make their mistakes when there is no consequence to doing so.
Software companies have something called “beta testing.” It’s where they ship an almost ready product to a subset of their users to help test the product and find its flaws.
Businesses have something called “pilot programs” where they can take a crazy idea and test it on a small scale before attempting a big rollout. The purpose of a pilot program is to make mistakes and learn from them… cheaply.
4) Finally, despite all this, I still believe it is far more cost-effective to learn from some else’s mistakes than from your own.
Yes, “mistakes are how we learn,” but nobody said it had to be our own mistakes!
This is why the Kindle library on my phone has 601 book titles. Spending $20 to learn from someone else’s lifetime of wisdom is an incredible return on investment.
It’s also why my Inner Circle Mentorship Program exists. Every month, I write up some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in a particular area of my life or career and share with my members how to avoid the mistakes I’ve made. And I’ve made a LOT of mistakes over the years!
I also hold video conference office hours for Inner Circle members who want to ask me for help in their careers. There’s no point in you making a mistake that I’ve already made and learned from.
Skip making the mistakes yourself and just learn from mine instead.
My Inner Circle is only open to new members twice a year, and the next opportunity to enroll will be later this quarter.
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