THE BRIGHT SIDE OF MISTAKES AND WHY YOU NEED TO MAKE MORE OF THEM
We start out in life full of energy and curiosity, making more mistakes per minute than the average adult admits to making in a year- spilling, messing, falling- and learning at a phenomenal rate. Learning probably more than the average adult learns in 2-3 years. New languages, meanings, names, dance moves.
All the while enjoying a freedom and joy in life we seem to experience less and less of as we grow up.
By the age of about 12, we start moving from ‘does this feel awesome’ to ‘what will people think’- and thus begin a kind of phobia of making mistakes and especially being seen making a mistake.
As we mature into entrepreneurs, activists and CEOs, we carry this aversion to mistakes progressively deeper within us.
THE PARADOX OF MISTAKES
We start our careers without much idea of what we should do or what’s the best move forward. We try things, some of those things work and we begin to experience a series of successes.
Once we have a modest level of success we begin to feel we have more to lose than gain by trying something new. We become increasingly averse to trying something that might not work, more and more conservative about what we do and try.
Soon we find ourselves confined to a narrow circle of activities and projects that we can take that we are confident about, that don’t threaten our sense of ability or confidence.
And thus, we become increasingly fragile.
Losing the energy and spirit of your youth and increasingly concerned about what other people will think.
This is ironic because since the days we were first starting out in our careers, we have accumulated a vast array of skills, talents, contacts and successes. Yet, we are less courageous and increasingly unlikely to utilize the full breadth of our experience and advantages.
Uncertainty, missteps and other fun stuff is the norm for those who stay at the edge of what they are comfortable with, going a step out of the way, a step beyond what anybody else is willing to do for their client, industry or field of study.
Socially we are conditioned to stay within the narrow limits of past success.
We get used to protecting an existing reputation at the cost of growing and accumulating new skills and successes as well as the thrill of having a hunch, trying it out and witnessing its wild success.
As long as we think success is other people’s approval, we will experience the stifling effects of it, along with all the tell-tale signs- boredom at work, lack of motivation or enthusiasm about life, a mounting sense of frustration and a nagging feeling that we are not doing what we are meant to do in this lifetime.
The more we think of reputation as a static memento from the past, the more unwilling we become to do what it takes to be at the cutting edge of our field and enjoy the heck out of life and work.
How to be free from this affliction?
Think of it as enjoyment tax- the small price you pay for having a fun, dynamic and evolving career.
“Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn.”
― Robert Greene, Mastery
A key to enjoying life and work for all the decades of our career is to stay at that edge between what’s familiar and proven and what’s unknown but interesting.
What is at the edge of your current career’s comfort zone? If you take a few steps in that direction- follow a hunch, test a theory, try a fresh solution- you are likely to have a lot more fun and probably in the long run achieve much bigger things than if you stay within the boundaries of what you already know right now.
If you’ve read this far, consider this an invitation to make many mistakes on your behalf. While some of them will be more useful than others, I promise you it’s a whole lot more fun than perfection or stagnation.
It’s all a mistake
…until it works.
That’s what innovation is. Mistakes, experiments, mis-steps.