|Posted on 8 September, 2021 at 6:00|
"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."
I hate making mistakes, of looking 'bad', or like an idiot or of letting people down. Or rather I should say, I hate me making mistakes. If other people do it, I encourage them to see mistakes as life lessons. I always say that the only person who lives a mistake free life is the person who is doing nothing (although that could be their biggest mistake of all).
But when I think back on my many mistakes, I have gained a wealth of experience and learning. For example:
My four failed driving tests (devastating to my confidence at the time) meant I had to have more lessons and driving practice. By the time I passed my fifth test, threw away my L plates and finally hit the road, I was a reasonably accomplished driver.
When training as an Image Consultant, I sailed through the first few weeks getting every client right. The only problem was I had absolutely no idea how I was doing it. This was great for the ego but I knew that I had nothing to fall back on if my instinct let me down. Then one day, in front of all my fellow trainees and all the tutors, I got a client completely wrong. But as my errors were explained, my audience could almost hear the sound of the pennies dropping as I finally grasped what the process was all about. At that moment, I became more confident as a consultant.
Not making mistakes can also create a barrier between you and others. I was once a secretary to a quite high flying Board of Trustees, made up of CEOs and Senior Management of big blue chip companies. I would write up minutes and then before the next meeting, I would have to phone all these powerful people, chasing them up to make sure they had done their actions. Although individually these were nice people, I was intimidated by their positions and found phoning them a real discomfort. Then at a meeting reviewing minutes of the last meeting, I noticed I had made a huge, glaring mistake. I prayed no one had seen it. Alas, when we got to it, one of the CEOs pointed it out with great glee. He was delighted to see that I was capable of making a complete dog's breakfast out of something. It seemed that whilst I was anxious about making the monthly calls to him, he was equally anxious about getting the calls, because he usually hadn't done what he was supposed to, and I, as far as he could see, was always perfect. I found out the rest of the board felt the same. What for me seemed a horrendous mistake which would ruin my reputation FOREVER actually created a much better relationship between me and the board. Who'd have thought it?!
We all make mistakes. That isn't a problem. The problem is if you let the mistakes define you, where you create the self image that mistakes = bad person, or hold yourself back in case it all goes horribly wrong. Embrace the mistakes, learn the lessons and move on, a more knowledgeable and experienced person.
And if all else fails, just remember what Fred Astaire said: "The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style."
How stylish will you be today?