“The chief trick to making good mistakes is not to hide them – especially not from yourself. Instead of turning away in denial, … you should become a connoisseur of your own mistakes, turning them over in your mind as if they were works of art, which, in a way they are.” Daniel Dennet
Many of us want to shrink when we make a mistake. We deny that we’ve made one or we hesitate to own our part. While it may seem easier to avoid ‘consequences’ – the truth is we (almost) always feel the consequences one way or the other. For instance, if we avoid taking risks for fear of looking foolish – we deprive ourselves of opportunities to grow and learn. Not good.
If we take a big risk… e.g. wholeheartedly sponsor a big project at work… and it goes well; we might get that promotion. If it fails, we will suffer from the ‘slings and arrows’ of people’s looks and possible gossip. But who learned? You did. While they were sitting back and judging you, you were out there talking, promoting, learning, growing and gaining visibility. Instead of hiding from your mistakes; what if you embraced them? what if you just say, “Wow, I made a mistake. I learned a lot and I won’t make that mistake again.” Imagine how confident you would seem and feel.
Billy Joel has a great line in his song… You’re Only Human:
“You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes
But they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own”
If mistakes are the only thing I can truly call my own, then I should make MORE not less. We encourage our small children to make mistakes and assure them that it’s ok when they do. Then they get to be teens; we start to bear down on them — don’t make mistakes!. As adults, we are mortified when it happens to us. Why? Because we are afraid to look anything less than perfect. We set a better example when we own our risks/mistakes. We then have the satisfaction of knowing that we created something – all my own. Smile, it’s just a mistake.
Photo credit: Hand over mouth Mel B.
My aha career moments… here are two.
1) I had been working in corporate America (a Fortune 25 company) when I got pregnant with my first child. I realized that if I was going to create the ‘life’ I wanted, I was going to have to figure out how to work part time. There were no ‘part-time’ ‘professional (non-exempt) women working as managers at the company at that time. I made my pitch to my boss… I’ll continue to manage the group, get my work done and you can pay me less (I’ll work 30 hours a week). In return, I’ll manage my own schedule. He didn’t want to say yes but I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. (Well he could have but he had a daughter my age..etc.) My aha moment was not getting the green light to test this new idea, which I did… the aha moment was the incredible push-back I got from my colleagues; particularly women.
Take-away: Be clear about your priorities and don’t let anyone stand in your way. I decided that the push-back came from inside these people. They were jealous that I was ‘brave’ enough to do something so radical (haha, radical).
2) Jumping off a cliff – When I left that same large corporation during a down-sizing (I was made an offer.. go back to full time or leave the company) — I decided to leave and start a company. I was the single mother of 2 school-aged children. People thought I was crazy. What they didn’t know was that I was carefully plotting my career to be an entrepreneur. Every assignment I took inside the corporation was designed to teach me a skill I would be able to use in my future entrepreneurial adventure. So I jumped off the cliff and started a company. It worked for about 2 years and then 9/11 happened and all our customer’s funding dried up.
Take-away: If you wait until everything is perfect, until you know what you’re going to do, until you’re certain… you’ll never jump. Some people are born to jump, some people aren’t. Don’t waste your time wishing you were one or the other. Know yourself and take the risks that make your life meaningful.
Live for today… the sun is shining, you can walk, talk, eat, smell, smile, see — but pay attention to your tomorrow. Don’t listen to others when they tell you — you can’t and leap when the leaping feels right. I sleep well at night and look in the mirror with a quiet confidence. I can always improve myself. But I can happily say; I didn’t let fear get interfere with doing it my way.
Image credit – GE Pinterest Board -That’s Genius – Thomas Edison
I like Entrepreneur magazine because it’s so full of fire and promise. If you hate your job… I understand. I’ve been there and I admit, I stayed too long reasons we all have… a family to provide for, paying my mortgage, etc. Boring, real-life responsibilities. But and this is a big BUT… we can take steps to be ready to make a change and be committed to acting as a role model for our children… no matter how old we are.
How to Find Work You Truly Love is an inspiration to all of us (especially since every job is temporary).
1) Hang around people who love their work. If you don’t know anyone who loves their work… I mean LOVES their work… not just satisfied and glad to have a paycheck… but jumps out of bed for the excitement of what’s the day’s work will bring… then you need to network and keep networking until you find them. They might be musicians, entrepreneurs, software people, CEO’s –who knows. Ask people, do you love your work? You’ll know in 10 seconds; their eyes will light up, they’ll start gesturing and smiling… Ask them… how did you find this work?
2) Try and then try again and then try again. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And even more importantly, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Never give up.
Don’t compare yourself with famous people, compare yourself with previous versions of yourself. Do you know yourself better? Are you having more fun? Are you kind to others?
Does your work meet at least 2 of these 3 criteria… are you learning, are you appreciated? are you having fun? More on this in a future post.
Photo Credit: Koul In Jail Anirudh Koul
I have one special gift, I have a good ‘ear’…I can’t sing …but I can recognize and imitate sounds. This is why I studied languages in college. I started taking French in 3rd grade and then studied German and Spanish in college. I loved learning about culture through understanding the language. I had a chance to read Victor Hugo, Franz Kafka and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in their original languages. Let me assure you that there are MANY things that don’t translate from one language to another. We Americans think our language is sophisticated– in the sense that we accommodate words from all kinds of other languages. However, just like us as a nation, it is young and immature — with all the good and bad things that flow from that.
When I came across this article: How Do You Say…? For Some Words There is No Translation – I loved the idea and examples. I especially appreciated…
Swahili: Tuko pajoma –Denotes a shared sense of purpose and motivation in a group. It transcends mere agreement and implies empathetic understanding, or “We are together.”
As we move forward into this unknown and unknowable future.. let us remember Tuko pajoma. We have a shared sense of purpose and motivation… and that is to help one another, to find our way together and to learn and grow. This takes a conscious effort and I am glad you’re on this journey with me. I couldn’t do it without you.
Heiwa no tabi suru May peace be your journey.
Image credit: How do you say…