Which mistake are you making?
All generalities are false, including this one!
If your answer to the question “What mistake are you making” is “none at the moment”, then that is the mistake you’re making: believing that you’re not making any. Or at least, it is if you’re growing, or if you’re trying to grow.
“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”~ Theodore Roosevelt
Some years ago I was working on developing my public speaking, and a highlight was to be given the opportunity to share the stage with someone who is a mentor, coach, and leadership role model for me.
This was at the International Certification event for the John Maxwell Team one August in Orlando, Florida. These events are held twice a year, and I was due to have a quiet chat with John Maxwell, on the main stage in front of some 3,500 people in the afternoon of the first full day of the conference.
I arrived at the conference a couple of days before it started, and one of my fellow coaches asked me what I was hoping to get out of this conference. My reply was to say; “I am hoping not to screw up on Monday”. Fortunately I recognised my mistake pretty quickly. I was delivering a bout of negative
There were 10 of us going up to have a similar chat with John as part of the conference on that Monday afternoon, and over the course of the next couple of days we had several practice runs. During those practices all of us managed to mess up at least once, and we were all encouraging and cheering each other on all the way.
I hadn’t learned my lesson too well, however. When Monday afternoon came I was sitting in line at the end of the 10 seats waiting to take my turn and as each of my fellow coaches went on stage and did an awesome job, I had this thought running through my head: “I’ll be the last on stage and the first to screw up”. Again, I had to catch my mistake, arrest my negative self-talk and turn it around to tell myself that I was going to the be the last on stage, I was going to knock it out of the park and be the best of the bunch.
I’m not sure that I was the best of the bunch but I did manage to get through without any screw-ups or mistakes and had an absolutely awesome time in the process.
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.~ Albert Einstein
In the run up to this event I had made many mistakes in my public speaking journey. I’ve had the experience of coming to deliver a talk and found that over half of the people in the audience were at a gig I had done a few weeks earlier where I had prepared exactly the same talk; I have had the experience of being stood in front of an audience part way through a speaking gig with my mind going totally blank, having absolutely no idea what I had intended to say next, and nothing to offer as an alternative.
However, I also know that these have been some of the most significant learning opportunities, and without them and without the challenge of having gone through them I would never have even imagined attempting the things that have become some of my greatest triumphs, and that I have reached places I would never have reached without facing these challenges and coming through the other side – such as the awesome experience of sharing the stage with John.
“From the smallest branch to the corporate level, there is nothing more useless than the person who says at the end of the day, as their own report card, ‘Well, I made it through to the end of the day without screwing up.’”~ Tom Peters
I guess that oftentimes the biggest danger is that we fear failure so much that we work to avoid the possibility of failure and completely miss our greatest triumphs.
In his book “Leadership Gold” John Maxwell talks about the recipe for “Successful Failure”, of learning to fail successfully. For this to happen we have to embrace five key steps:
- Admit your own mistakes and weaknesses
The step first is to be honest and realistic and face up to the things we find challenging. This involves looking again at times when we didn’t achieve the results we wanted to achieve, examining ourselves and asking the question “what could I have done differently”, and then taking responsibility for the mistakes we have made along the way.
- Accept mistakes as the price of progress
I suspect that for most people, when we were learning to ride a bike, we didn’t give up the first time we fell off and grazed a knee, we didn’t give up learning to drive the first time we stalled the car, and we didn’t give up give up trying to walk the first time we fell over as a toddler. If we’re learning to lead we’ll inevitable fail sooner or later if we want to make progress.
- Insist on learning from your mistakes
The only mistake that is all bad is the mistake we don’t learn from. Some fabulous inventions ad discoveries have come from mistakes, including the microwave oven, x-rays, Superglue, Teflon, Velcro and Play-doh!
- Ask yourself and others “what are we missing”
“Good people are good because they have come through wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success.”~ William Saroyan
- Give the people around you permission to “push back”
I heard a story about a Chief Executive who introduced a new idea to his board, to which there was almost immediate universal agreement. His response was to say: “Okay, we’ll leave this decision until the next board meeting when we’ve had
We need to ask the question: “What mistake have we made recently”, and if the answer is “nothing” then that’s the mistake we have made.
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.
He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.