Make new mistakes!
“The man who is incapable of making mistakes is incapable of anything” -Abraham Lincoln
TONY ROBBINS said, “No matter how many mistakes you make. You’re still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying”. In life, the fellow who never makes a mistake takes his orders from the one who does! A man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything; making mistakes is better than faking perfections. George Bernard Shaw once said, “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing”. When the famous Dr. William Moyo was asked about his most important prayer point, he said, “O Lord, deliver me from the man who never makes mistakes, and also the man who makes the same mistake twice”.
As the Dean of Schools of an educational institution, I am always fortunate to be on the interviewing panel for the recruitment of new teachers where applicants are thoroughly drilled on the reasons why they should be considered for the job. There was a particular applicant who inspired me on this particular piece. As an historian who would obviously come around to teach History in the establishment, I asked him a central question of which most applicants normally floundered: “What is the relevance of History beyond the classroom and how can your course of study lead to the advancement of the nation”.
His answer would later flabbergast me in such a way that I abruptly concluded that he had gotten the job while other applicants for the same position were still waiting at the reception room!
He said: “History helps us to avoid the mistakes of the past and to ensure that even if we have to make mistakes, then it will have to be new mistakes and not the old ones that have the capacity to bring us back to the past”. In summary, he was of the opinion that History helps us in making new mistakes for the advancement of the nation.
Life’s stories are full of people that blundered and floundered their way to success. Thomas Edison’s idea of the light bulb came through the plethora of his blunders. It took Edison about 10,000 trials to make the light bulb! When a journalist attempted to ridicule him by asking how he felt to have failed 10,000 times, the master inventor replied with an answer that shook the world: “I have not failed 10,000 times; I just found 10,000 ways of how not to make a light bulb”. With the right mentality, it is obvious that mistakes are opportunities to learn.
The acclaimed father of modern automobile, Henry Ford, forgot to put a reverse gear in his first car! It was a massive error for a car that was much awaited by many. When Henry Ford was asked to say something about his global blunder, he ended up redefining the erroneous interpretation of failure. He said, “Failure is simply an opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”.
There is no time that a man is so human than when he makes mistakes. Mahatma Gandi said, “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes”. Whether in relationships, organizations, businesses, we must create the atmosphere for people to make mistakes and learn from them. The consoling truth is that mistakes are the only infallible evidence that we are human. It is not the mistakes that we have made in life that define us but rather the critical life lessons that we have learnt through it all. Robert Kennedy said, “I do not fail, I succeed in finding out what does not work. Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”.
Education is actually meant to be an adventure but our legalistic way of evaluation and assessment has made it so boring to many. That is why we keep having students dropping out year in and year out for worthwhile adventures. We must come together as stakeholders to bridge the disconnect between the ‘Gown’ (school) and the ‘Town’ (real world). We must redesign assessment models that reward students for floundering intelligently. Our method of archaic educational assessment punishes students destructively for making mistakes when mistakes are actually an integral part of learning. Some International Examinations have designed assessment methods that reward students even for floundering intelligently. Real education must get us to a point where we fully realise that: Every mistake you make is progress!
Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”. Mistakes and errors can become springboards to greater heights if we take ample time to brainstorm instead of blame-storming on them. We are not perfect; we have flaws, and we make mistakes. These characteristics do not make us worthless; they make us worthy.
The legendary Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over, and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”. Without mistakes and failure, Michael Jordan would have been a false idol. Mistakes are an integral part of the learning process. Any learning process that does not accommodate making mistakes will always short-circuit the learners’ capacity for innovation.
One of the songs that has so much inspired in me the positive impact of making new mistakes was the one sung by Colombian singer Shakira for the 2016 Walt Disney Animation Studios film Zootopia, “Try Everything”. The lyric of the song captured succinctly the end result of making new mistakes:
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh(*4times)
I messed up tonight, I lost another fight
I still mess up but I’ll just start again
I keep falling down, I keep on hitting the ground
I always get up now to see what’s next
Birds don’t just fly, they fall down and get up
Nobody learns without getting it wrong
I won’t give up, no I won’t give in
‘Til I reach the end and then I’ll start again
No, I won’t leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail
…..I’ll keep on making those new mistakes
I’ll keep on making them every day
Those new mistakes!
As parents, leaders and entrepreneurs, we must learn to appreciate and affirm people’s worth regardless of their mistakes and errors. This will help them give their best. Mistakes are actually the proof that we are trying! We must stop the blame game and invest more in helping people be the best version of themselves. Forgive people for their mistakes but don’t forget the lessons.
Denis Waitley said, “Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience”. Whether in relationships, career, marriage, Ministry or in any learning process, we must fully realise that mistakes are integral part of learning. Nobody learns without first getting it wrong! We must always give people chances of improving on themselves. We should never draw conclusions on anybody just because of their mistakes. John Maxwell said, “God uses people who fail – because there aren’t any other kind around”.
Finally, I would like to reach out to many people out there that are afraid of taking a major leap just because they are afraid of making mistakes. In the actual sense of it, to make a mistake is not a mistake but to repeat the same mistake is a mistake! Even if you don’t succeed, your experience will ultimately put you in a better position for greater success. Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes”. Contrary to popular belief, the greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually fear that you will make one.Adam Osborne said, “The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake – you can’t learn anything from being perfect”.
When you make mistakes in life, which you will always do, take ownership of your mistakes and learn from them. The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
John Wooden said, “You can make mistakes, but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming others for those mistakes”. Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.
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