The following is a rough draft for a speech I plan to give for Summer LIFE.
Have you ever made a mistake? I have. How did it feel. Did you get hurt? I broke my hand skateboarding. Did you lose something or someone? Maybe you lost money. I’ve turned down easy jobs because I was tired. We tend to regret the mistakes we make. I regret not working that day and getting an easy $100. Maybe you got a problem wrong in math class.
If mistakes hurt, should we do everything in our power to avoid making them? What would that look like? It would probably require only ever doing things that you already are an expert at. I don’t know about you, but I’m not an expert at very many things, so I have just severely limited my options. But even experts make mistakes sometimes, so I guess I shouldn’t try anything at all. That’s IT! If I never try anything new or difficult, I will never make a mistake and will be perpetually happy. Right? I will be happiest in life if I never do anything wrong.
Wrong. Doing nothing is the biggest mistake you can make. Where would you be today if you never tried anything new? Where would mankind be without taking great risks? In fact, mistakes are necessary and good. It means that you are trying new and difficult things. Make mistakes. Just make new ones. If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t challenging yourself, and you’ll never learn anything new. 10 years from now, you will have the same skills or less. That’s not progress at all. Einstein said, “A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
Make mistakes! Make lots of mistakes, and learn from them. Often when we make mistakes, we feel like we’re a failure. Failure is an event, not a person. Failure is a mistake tied to a particular time. It doesn’t become part of who you are unless you let it. Every successful person in this world has had more than their share of failures. I say “more” because they had to fight their way to the top, and I promise you that they fell many times along the way.
“Why do we fall? So, we can learn to pick ourselves up.” – Batman Begins
Why do mistakes hurt so much? I’ve just explained a bit about how we beat ourselves up too much for the mistakes we make. We need to embrace our mistakes. But often times, people make each other feel bad for making mistakes. Why? Have they never made a mistake? Of course they have, but they try to push others down in order to feel bigger. Get past your pride and show some empathy. When people around us make mistakes, we need to be cheering them on too. We can help pick them up and learn with them.
Of course, none of this is as easy as it sounds. I can’t just flip a switch and suddenly love my mistakes. They still hurt. The way I have worked through this is to begin celebrating my mistakes. Admit clearly when you make a mistake and let other people know that you are learning from it. When I make a mistake, instead of feeling bad, closing myself up, furrowing my eyebrows and giving up, I throw my hands into the air, smile, and yell, “How Fascinating!”. Then, I try again. In fact, any time you see me do this, I want you to do it with me because we are all learning together. An additional reward is that when you show others clearly like this that your mistakes don’t bother you, they can’t make you feel bad for them either. In fact, with everyone throwing their hands in the air and shouting, “How Fascinating!” your positive attitude toward mistakes has just become contagious. I also do this when I learn something new and suddenly understand a topic in a more profound way. I hope you’re beginning to see that those two things are not very different from each other: making mistakes and learning something new.
I’d like to leave you with the words of Ms. Frizzle, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”