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At various times throughout a person’s life, an occasion arises in which said person is due a big, ugly butt-kicking. Not a literal physical fustigation, mind you – but a comeuppance…a hard lesson…failure…a loss.Making a mistake here or there (and being forced to deal with the consequences) is good for you.Granted, not all mistakes are good things. Certain mistakes are always bad. For instance, say – bomb technicians or surgeons or maybe those guys who juggle chainsaws.(Quick…name three people who you never want to hear say, “Whoops!”)But for the rest of us, mistakes and failures are actually good things. They allow us to analyze, learn, and improve.

Let’s Talk About Your Love Life.

When you were younger, did you ever have a parent or a friend advise you not to date a certain someone? How did that go? It made you want to date them even more. Later in that relationship you probably learned that as much as you hated to admit it, the person who tried to warn you was right.Apply the same scenario to a financial decision you have made in the past – or a job offer you either did or did not take.Now think about this…In your life, have you learned more from the times you received advice or maybe even read up on the subject in question…or did you learn more from the times you made a bad decision and had to face some sort of really uncomfortable consequence?Ah-ha! A mistake can be a very, very valuable thing.In our efficiency-minded world, we are expected to be on our game all the time. Because of this, ambitious people like us are absolutely terrified of making an honest mistake. Not only is that unhealthy, it can smother creativity and our natural desire to try new things.If we let our fear of making mistakes dominate our thoughts, we think only inside the box. Pretty messed up, right?

Honest or Idiotic?

Without getting into psychology or behavioral sciences (because frankly, I’m unqualified to do so), let’s say for simplicity’s sake that there are two types of mistakes: Honest mistakes and Idiotic mistakes.In case those descriptions confuse, here are a couple examples:

Honest Mistake:“My client wanted a meeting for the 5th at 4pm and I wrote it down as the 4th at 5pm.””I meant to send the FedEx next morning but accidentally checked next business day.'”

Idiotic Mistake:“I got a Twinkie stuck in my CD drive.””I wanted to see what pepper spray tasted like.”

…and there you go.Honest Mistakes can range from kind of dumb to absent minded – all the way up to incredibly complex mistakes.With regard to the kind of dumb or absent minded mistakes, you’re allowed the occasional mulligan. But if you routinely do that kind of stuff, shame on you. Go sit in the corner. You really need to get your act together.On the other hand, if you’re curious about the taste of pepper spray, there’s not much the world can do for you.  Wrap yourself in bubble-wrap, stay away from sharp objects, and don’t operate heavy machinery.On second thought…forget all that and go nuts. That’s just a little thing we call natural selection.Whether Idiotic or Honest, all mistakes come with consequences that we have to live with.If you’re making honest mistakes and you’re getting bloodied up in the process, then please take the opportunity to get something out of it. Otherwise, you’re just getting your butt kicked repeatedly for no good reason at all. And frankly, that’s just pointless.

To make your unpleasant experience useful, ask yourself questions like these…– What exactly happened – step by step?- Was this one mistake or a chain of mistakes that added up?- Was I paying attention to the other people involved?- Was I being a good listener/communicator?- Did I have realistic goals going into this?- Was I trying to solve a problem?- Was I trying to solve the right problem?- If I were paying attention, could I have identified the problem before it happened?- What didn’t I know then that I do know now?- When I come across this situation again, what will I do differently?- What information could have helped me avoid this situation?- How and where could I find information to help me with similar situations in the future.

Then, look yourself in the eye (I recommend a mirror for this) and…

  • Realize that you were responsible for at least part of the mistake and own it.
  • Remember that screwing something up doesn’t mean you are a screw-up.
  • Know that by identifying your shortcomings, you are getting exponentially smarter and more effective.

The next time you screw up (and you will) get something out of it.

“Those things that hurt, instruct”– Benjamin Franklin

Don’t beat yourself down with negative self-talk. Dissect the situation, figure out what went wrong and get stronger because of it. Every little failure takes you one step closer to your next win.Now you.Tell me about a lesson you learned after a figurative butt-kicking.