Make mistakes

Author: Vasco Gaspar

Co-Author: Pratibha Kujur

The importance of error making to our development

We live in a culture that devalues the power of errors. They are seen as “targets to be exterminated” or evils that should be “swept under the rug” as soon as possible. We even like pointing them out in others.

It is interesting though to scan through different cultures to have a fresh outlook about errors. In some culture, error is sought almost obsessively because it is seen to be as a valuable information needed for learning and growth. It is in fact a precious formula for success i.e., The want to make small mistakes + Failing fast = Learning fast. In these cultures,  there’s no room for feelings of guilt over mistakes committed, because it is considered that  people always do things within their reach, knowledge and environment constraints. Thus it makes no sense in feeling guilty over the mistake, instead it is more important to learn what the situation is trying to teach.

Have you ever thought that “good decisions are the result of a good sense, and the good sense is the outcome of bad decisions”? What if you, as a child when you were taking your first steps, had given up the first time you fell down? Or your parents had made comments like “you’ll never get anywhere walking like that.” Where do you think you would have been today?

For years, we have been taught by our surroundings that making mistakes are shameful but now it’s high time to include education about error in our culture. Obviously I am not speaking  about focusing on the error, I am talking about the error to learn, grow and evolve; the error followed by discussion and awareness about how we can improve.

We are  explorers by nature and we need to be confronted with new situations to develop new skills. Obviously we can and  must prepare to acquire knowledge through various channels but, ultimately, it’s only by “trying our hands” that we’ll learn how does it really feel!

So next time when you’re faced with a challenge, take a small step forward and allow yourself to go wrong. But do not stop there… Be courageous to acknowledge the mistakes, learn from them and move on to make changes. See mistakes  as “fertilizers” to your personal growth process.

Now, as parents, there’s no doubt that you witness your kids making mistakes many times. Just think how many wonderful opportunities your children are in fact getting to learn and expand their knowledge. Instead of pinning on them constantly to make them feel guilty, help them understand that “to err is human”and help them learn the lesson from the situations. Sometimes children commit the same mistakes several times but that’s not the end of the world! It just take them a longer time to imbibe the lessons because of so many new things they need to learn and retain  simultaneously.

To conclude this topic, I would like to mention that some argue that if we not make a mistake at least twice a week, then we are not trying hard enough. In this sense, make mistakes, make them well and make them soon. But wait, do not rush to make  the next error. First, learn from your mistake,  take it as a “stamp” and paste it into your “book of life”, so that you can identify it and do not have to buy the same one again!

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  1. pratibha kujur said on June 14th at 7:20 am:

    It makes me remember all the times I felt ashamed for making errors (which curiously used to happen in front of many people), mainly because those people used to make fun of it.
    Gradually I understood that it’s not necessary that I should know everything all the time and look perfect, after all we cannot come all-prepared from our mothers womb!

  2. Deri Latimer said on June 14th at 6:44 pm:

    Amen to that! I speak to leaders in organizations regularly, and part of my message is to embrace mistake -making…in exactly the same way you describe. If leaders are not vulnerable enough to admit to (and learn from) their mistakes, no one else will…and the learning/development/growth – and connection is lost!
    Thanks for this, Vasco!

  3. Amanda Itliong said on June 29th at 7:54 pm:

    I spent the last 5 years working with very elite college students and I have the sense that this is a problem that is getting worse so I love your parenting suggestions! I am surprised to see how risk averse so many of my students were. It was also a culture that valued entrepreneurship which is all about taking risks. In my opinion this resulted in some very disturbing behaviors such as such as students spending lots of time making their mistakes and bad ideas seem like they aren’t actually mistakes or bad ideas. Since many were taught by their parents that they can always negotiate when they don’t get their way, this leads to lots of arguing and attempted negotiation about why they didn’t get the job/fellowship, or why they weren’t selected for the program even though they should just know that they messed up – try again next year. Also, I think this same thing (along with pressure to look impressive) has led to some students trumping up their resumes with some half truths and also creating elaborate websites about organizations and projects they may have started that never really worked and don’t really exist. It is a small group of students with severe problems like this, but it always disturbs me when they are sometimes getting the best jobs and fellowships because nobody is looking behind the curtain. In teaching leadership I always create oppotunities for sharing mistakes and what we’ve learned from them. Once you create a safe space to share them I’ve seen that it really opens people up. I like The Leadership Challenge also as a text and it does a great job of supporting this through the practice of “Challenge the Process.” Valuing the journey (mistakes and all) is so important. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Lashell said on July 7th at 2:43 pm:

    This really is something I need to find more information about, appreciation for the post.

  5. Eddie said on July 7th at 6:39 pm:

    hi, excellent blog site, and an excellent understand! 1 for my bookmarks.

  6. Prof. Adhikari Srikanta Dash said on July 14th at 6:09 am:

    An excellent article. Children should be trained to learn from errors, failures, or mistakes. To err is not a crime, it just being human. We should not feel apologetic, ashamed, or afraid of committing mistakes. They teach us, enrich us, and make us better human beings. Congratulations and thanks for writing this useful article. Looking forward to reading more of such stuff.

  7. Vasco Gaspar said on July 17th at 5:39 pm:

    Thank you for your kind comments!
    Wish you all a fantastic day.

    Kind regards,

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