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If You Can't Make Mistakes, You Can't Make Anything

One of the most impressive lectures I’ve ever been to was delivered by a a man who was highly regarded for his business acumen and success. He had come from a deep-woods, dirt-poor East Texas family and ended up owning one of the world’s largest oil exploration companies, copper mines in Spain, massive amounts of stock, multiple mansions, and a fleet of private planes.

The host of the luncheon read his lengthy resume to the crowd as he stepped up to the podium. He leaned into the microphone, hesitated just a moment, before saying, “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH”. Can you say pin drop? He had us at the first “BLAH”.

From there, he began to share his “great, big, fat mistakes”. He talked about the value of making every one of these mistakes, and what he learned from each one. Some stories were funny—like building his first skyscraper while totally forgetting to include a parking garage—UH OH. Others were about his lack of sophistication and social graces. Still others were heartbreaking about the many bridges he burned in the name of “climbing the ladder.” 45 minutes-worth, non stop.

The point is— he used his mistakes to make course corrections. They allowed him to learn…and improve. They were his “stepping stones across the wide and mighty river” from where he was to where he is today. I have always thought of those stepping stones when I feel like I have failed. I also hear myself say, “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH”, thanks to him. Time to course correct.

Sometimes I am overcome with gridlock, afraid to start something new because I don’t want to make a mistake. It’s not really about being perfect. It’s more about not wanting to feel like an idiot. When I get embarrassed, it’s a hideous thing. I get so red and blotchy that people think I have this allergic reaction to something. They offer to call 911…which makes me get even redder. After this lecture, though, I realized a new truth. It has forever impacted my thinking. Mistakes ARE part of the process of progress. And, even more important, is the willingness to make one.

Being willing means I am open to my dreams.

Being willing means I am placing myself on the path to success, whatever comes my way.

Mistakes make me wise.

They allow me to focus on the correct course of action. And they offer me continuing opportunities to see myself and others with compassion, fascination, and humility.


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