Learning to Make Mistakes

Crazie Chameleon - Mastery for Beginners

Things don’t always go according to plan, and for a control freak like me that’s a hard truth. One that I end up spending an inordinate amount of time trying to change.  This means that it’s a lesson that I re-learn over and over again, which only make me grumpy and a delightful target for my family’s relentless teasing!

This week didn’t all work out quite as I’d planned. I was going to attend the my first fete, make loads of money, be a great success, and then build on that inevitable suggess with bigger and better things.  I had it all mapped out in my mind – I knew exactly what I needed to know, what I needed to do, and how it was all going to pan out. You’d have thought that after 12 odd years of project management with some of the most colourful characters imaginable, I’d have learned that even the best laid plans can’t account for human nature. Nah, of course I’d forgotten this little titbit of truth.

I’m sure I did everything properly and correctly, or at the very least I didn’t pick my nose and fart (too loudly) when customers came to my stall. But still it wasn’t enough to entice more than about five mini-people (kids with a bit of pocket money) to feel sorry for me.  Even then, most of them only bought something because of my daughter’s natural bossiness (ahem… leadership), which didn’t leave them much choice! It turns out that she’s a better salesman than I am. Oh my bruised and battered ego….

So I limped home, determined not to worry about it, wondering what was next. Plan A didn’t go according to plan, but I did have Plan B, and Plan C and about a half of Plan D that I could roll out. Still, it’s a bit of a bummer to have put all of those hours into the work, to find that it didn’t inspired awe and amazement. So I did what every self-respecting woman in a crisis does – I applied liberal amounts of chocolate (my blood chocolate levels were running low) and escaped into a good book (or three) for the rest of the weekend.

Momma-Told-Me-ButtonAt this point let me point out that I’m perfectly well aware that I have moments (ahem) of having utterly unrealistic expectations, and that I can be far harder on myself than I really need to be. Yes, I appreciate that life might be a little more comfortable if I just backed off a bit, but I’ve never been one to take the easy route when there’s a more interesting one. Nor have I ever been one to worry too much about the limitations of reality.

As the week’s gone on, it’s given me a chance to think.  I’ve noticed something funny about mistakes and things not going according to plan.  I really don’t like making mistakes, especially not public ones, but then I can’t think of a single mistake I’ve made that I haven’t learned loads from.  Most of my powerful and “aha!” moments have come out of mistakes. Take a look at the last time I took my mountain bike out. I made the mistake of lifting my hand from the handlebar for just a second (my sunglasses were misting up) and ended up wrapped around a tree with several magnificant bruises and (ultimately) scars to show for it. Trust me when I say I’ve learned that lesson and won’t be making it again 😀

All of this got me thinking about the way we learn as kids – how many of us praise our kids when they do well, and chastise them when they do badly. That’s normal, isn’t it? We even do it at work (if we’re managers) and it’s the way we expect people to be. But how do we respond when our kids make mistakes? If a master is “made” by making more mistakes than a novice ever even attempts, then shouldn’t we be praising the mistakes they make? What would this world be like if we celebrated the progress and things we learned everytime someone made a mistake, rather than criticising them for something they already feel lousy about?

Maybe, just maybe, I should allow myself to make mistakes too. Just because I’m supposed to be a grownup now, doesn’t mean I should expect myself to know everything, or that I can’t carry on learning new stuff. If mistakes are part of the learning process, then I’m going to take a deep breath, pull up my shoelaces tight and jump straight in. Geronimo!!!