Friday afternoon our team got a newsletter. The headline read, “We Have No Room for Error” the message was loud and clear. We do not tolerate mistakes no matter how small they may seem to be. My boss wants the team to understand why it is so important to never mess up, miss a beat, or make a mistake. There were groans all throughout the office. Word spread that if we made a mistake, even a tiny one, our bonus would be at risk. We all felt a little on edge.
When I got hired at my job, in the interview, my boss asked me, “tell me about one time you made a mistake?” Hmm I thought. “well there was this one time when I decided to be a hairdresser (I have my cosmetology license but have never been very good at cutting hair) This man had long hair down past his shoulders and I gave him a massive bald spot. I learned a lot that day. I learned that I needed a different career path.
The mistakes that I’ve made at work and in life have guided me towards the things I am passionate, have helped me narrow down the things I will never do, and have shown me the areas I need to improve. No mistakes at work? How ever will I learn?
“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure.”
—Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM
1. That trial and error actually makes us better
When we make an error, we subconsciously pay more attention than when we do something the right way. I started really paying attention to where my clippers were after I gave that man a bald spot. The senior hairdresser informed me that “it was a rookie mistake”. I’ll also note that I felt terrible and never wanted to go through that again.
We don’t like the way it feels to be wrong. Our brains do this cool thing where if we’re wrong they’ll store more information about the situation so we don’t ever have to feel like that again. A new study from John Hopkins University theorizes that our brains save errors. We eventually use those errors and even apply them to different situations when they arise.
2. Being wrong sucks, but being right is worse
There is a power in learning how to be wrong. I am one of those people that will argue through a point to no end, even if I realized halfway through the argument that I was wrong. Yes, I know, I am the worst kind of person. Plus, this behavior doesn’t help anyone because if we learn to listen to the other side of the argument we might actually learn something.
3. Failure is nothing to fear
We live in a world where we are taught that failure is a bad thing, mistakes mean you don’t know as much as you think you do. The lessons you learn from failing might be some of the most important lessons you learn in your life. Vinton G. Cerf understands failure is life’s greatest teacher, and that we should take advantage of it.
4. The blame game doesn’t help anyone
If I make a mistake I try to own up to it. When someone comes out from the break room and starts complaining that “someone left crumbs all over the table and like eww”, I don’t sneak back and try to clean it up I own up to it and go back to clean it up.
Most people would rather put the blame on someone else rather than own up to their mistake. I hear you, I have a hard time admitting when I am in the wrong and taking responsibility. Taking the blame may hurt our ego at first, but in the long run, it actually makes people respect you more. They see you as being honest and having integrity.
5. You learn not to be defined by your mistakes
It is important to understand that when we accept and own up to our errors that those faults do not define us. They do not tell us who we are, so don’t dwell on them. If you can learn to accept you made a mistake, appreciate the learning experience, and move on then you will be happier. You will find that your life feels more fulfilled and you are more engaged in everything you do because you aren’t afraid to fail.
6. How to be a leader
As I mentioned before, when we own up to a wrongdoing other people see us as more respectable, even though we did the wrong thing! Honesty and integrity outweigh mistakes. These qualities are what make good leaders. It shows people that they can look up to you because you will be transparent with them. It shows them that you aren’t the type of person that other people for your own faults. Then in kind hopefully they will do the same.
7. How to be better
The best thing about failing at something and getting it wrong is that it creates the opportunity for one to get better. Our natural reaction is to try it differently the next time around. It goes back to the same idea of trial and error, as a result of this process we improve.
Other articles you might like: Organizing for Success
8. Something that the guy next to you doesn’t know
I watched someone sit down on a wet bus chair and stand right up (obviously) so I took a seat next to that chair and didn’t sit in it (obviously). When it was the only seat left and a new passenger came on board and sat down I forgot to tell him what I just learned, that you have to check the seat first.
Usually, it is better to make mistakes for yourself, I think we learn the best that way, but sometimes it’s okay to learn from the guy next to you.
9. That you are not right all the time and don’t have to be
Nothing is more humbling than being told that you are wrong. It sucks and it hurts because no one likes being wrong. I often find that I have an overwhelming need to be right. Often, I have to mentally curb that need. It is an ugly thing to argue a point that is usually moot anyways. If you have to debate with someone keep an open mind and don’t go into the conversation with the mindset of needing to have the other person agree with you. No one wins when we act like that. This article from the daily positive highlights expands on learning how not to get defensive.
10. Mistakes = Progress
If you find that you are making mistakes all the time, good, that gives you plenty of learning opportunities. If you learn from something it means your making progress. The goal is to keep moving the bar forward. People get stuck when they fall into routines and habits. They aren’t making mistakes because they aren’t trying anything new.
11. If you don’t own up to your mistakes you’ll always feel the false sense of being right
No one is right all of the time no matter what they tell you, but there are some people who will just not admit to being wrong. The issue is, that you are in the wrong arguing with people for the sake of being right all the time. Not only that but also if you insist you are right you are closing the door to any other possibilities. No one is always right.
Other articles you might like: Work Hard and Trust Your Path
12. If you want to be successful you have to fail
I am habitually interested in trying new things all the time. I’m not good at everything I try. When I learned to drive standard. I was absolutely terrible at it. I cried, I yelled, I almost gave up 3 times. It was hard. A couple weeks later and a lot of driving help from my mom I figured it out.
The harder you have to fight and push to get to where you want to be, the sweeter the victory. What separates the winners from the losers is the desire to learn and improve from failure. Winners always keep moving forward even after they’ve failed many times.
13. You will gain more respect admitting to a mistake rather than denying one was made
As I mentioned briefly before mistakes earn us the respect of others when we own up to them. When we hide our faults from other people because we are afraid of what they will think, it doesn’t feel good. We know the truth deep down and other people won’t trust you. “acknowledging your mistakes, apologizing for them, and then earnestly working to make things right almost always has the opposite effect“ maybe they will be mad at first, but in the long run you will earn their respect.
14. There is always room for improvement
When I was a waitress, one of my tables asked me to answer a riddle, “what is the biggest room in the world”. I was totally stumped. The answer was “room for improvement”. Business and people get caught up in this mode of thinking, “That’s the way we’ve always done it” People that aren’t willing to change because they are afraid of failing are people who aren’t willing to learn and improve.
15. Your opportunity for change
I just finished reading “Who Stole my Cheese” which is all about change and not fearing change. Right now the book seemed very relevant to me. It talks about knowing when to make a change and when to go with the flow and follow whatever it is that’s changing. When you are making progress your mistakes are an open door for change. Asking yourself questions like “What can I do differently? What can I do better? How do I avoid this happening to me again?”
The moral of the story is, make mistakes, and when you do learn from them. Don’t feel bad or allow others to make you feel bad about being wrong. We’re all wrong once in a while, but if you can own up to it, your already doing better than those who will never admit that they aren’t perfect.