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Mistakes Happen

Are you one of those people who cannot stand making mistakes? Like mistake making is the kind of Cardinal sin that can’t be forgiven. Do you beat yourself up over them? Are you tough on other people when they make mistakes?

Admittedly, I too, am the kind of person who can allow missteps and miscues to fester in my thoughts. Even though, I know, that most slip ups are not matters of life and death, and can usually be fixed up and corrected rather quickly and with little mess.

What I’ve learned over the years that I think holds pretty true for most of us is this.

Attempting to live a life of perfection, or striving for perfection, can be the kind of exhaustive undertaking that can leave you worn out. But, it is an admirable desire. It just doesn’t leave you much room to make mistakes, which are a big part of learning and growth.

Instead, I believe, to “strive for excellence” is a more appropriate montra to follow. Excellence is a 99.99% criteria that allows for at least that .01% room for error. That .01% room for growth. In my opinion, a mindset of striving for excellence empowers one the capacity to accept that to err is human.

Because that is what we are. Human beings. Not machines. No human has ever walked this planet, except for one depending on your religious beliefs, and lived a perfect life. Without flaw. Absent of faults or blemishes.

And that is ok. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making mistakes.

If an effort is genuine. Genuine being the key word here. If an effort is genuine, then a result short of perfection should be acceptable. There are very few tasks in this average, everyday life that require perfect results.

Let me clear about one thing, by the way. For the “A” type personalities in the room. I don’t suspect there are many, but there could be. Please do not confuse the message of being ok with less than perfect results, with being ok with poor effort. All I’m talking about here is that mistakes and accidents are a part of life, and that when they happen, it's not the end of the world, because nobody is perfect. Life, in general, is far from perfect, and I’m sure we’ve all had experience in that regard.

Speaking of accidents, I wanted to share some gee whiz, FYI, useless knowledge about some happy accidents that have taken place in history that have resulted in some pretty neat things.

Back in the 40s a researcher named Percy Spencer was experimenting with these vacuum tubes called magnetrons. Well apparently on one occasion while conducting his experiments, a candy bar he had in his pocket melted. Just like any regular person who

discovers a new way to catch things on fire would do, it was time to find out what else he could burn. He decided he would try to pop popcorn with his new toy and Eureka! The discovery which led to his inventing the microwave.

This is a pretty well known story, I think, but also in the 40s a naval engineer named Richard James was trying to design a spring that would help keep important equipment steady on boats and ships, when he accidentally knocked one of his springs off his desk. Well, when he did so, the spring continued moving and walking on its own. This happy accident later became known as the Slinky toy.

In 1955, a guy named Noah McVicker was trying to invent wallpaper cleaner. Instead, he came up with something he was able to sell to a toy manufacturer called Rainbow Crafts and Play-Doh was born.

Other accidental discoveries that we all benefit from today include, fireworks, silly puddy, post-it notes, and the wonder drug Penicillin.

What’s the point of all this? Accidents happen. Mistakes happen. And it’s ok.

Personally I can understand the desire to live a perfect, mistake-free existence. I can understand the desire to strive for perfection. Where I ask the question is that in the pursuit of perfection, where does that leave us when we expose a flaw, or slip up? I think it leaves us feeling pretty bad. Worse than what is necessary I’d imagine.

Errors, mistakes, slip ups, miscues, are what makes life interesting. And, in my experience, it’s in these moments where our greatest personal growth takes place. Because we learn something about ourselves and our surroundings, and we become better, improved versions of ourselves.

It’s way easier said than done, but let’s all try and not be so hard on ourselves and others when mistakes are made.

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