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On making mistakes

On making mistakes

Whoops. I goofed.

I made a mistake yesterday. Another one today. And I’ll probably do another tomorrow. They come in all shapes and sizes: hitting “Reply All” instead of “Reply” on an email, forgetting to followup after a conversation, spilling coffee on your keyboard, leaving your charger behind when traveling, citing the wrong metric in an important meeting, making an embarrassing typo, the list goes on and on.

Regardless of severity, they always feel the same in the pit of my stomach. Not long ago, any of those would have paralyzed me for a week; I’d lose sleep, I’d dwell on it, I’d convince myself the mistake was irrecoverable, and I’d overanalyze ways to do it over.

Inspired by the fighter pilot Bob Hoover, who when faced with a life threatening mistake said it best, “there isn’t a man alive who hasn’t made a mistake”. It’s time for a change.

Some, like Ryan Holiday, keep an annual list of mistakes. Others, like Ted Lasso, prefer to be a goldfish. I seek a happier medium. Acknowledge, adapt, do not repeat.

So, today I’m reminding myself “to err is to human”. Importance can’t be placed on the goof itself. Importance should be focused on finding patterns. So I want to convert that sinking feel of doom into fuel. Fuel to power personal and professional growth; fuel to bust out of the pattern; fuel to learn and evolve.

“As long as you live, keep learning how to live. To err is human, but to persist in the mistake is diabolical.”
Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

How do you deal with and recover from your own mistakes?

This article, “On making mistakes”, was inspired by a thought that first appeared as a post on LinkedIn.