The Beauty of Learning From Our Mistakes
“Of course, I make mistakes. I’m human. If I didn’t make mistakes, I’d never learn. You can only go forward by making mistakes.” ~ Alexander McQueen
“No one is perfect. Your ERA is not zero. You’re not going to have 30 wins. And your batting average isn’t going to be 1.000. So you don’t have the right to verbally talk out about somebody. Look at yourself. Did you do everything you could do? Did you start your day off right? Are you perfect?” ~ Ken Griffey Jr.
“We have to judge politicians by their cumulative score. In one inning they make a great catch, in another they drop the ball. In one they score a home run, in another they strike out. But it is their cumulative batting average that we are interested in.” ~ Jesse Jackson
Look how far you’ve come. Without mistakes in your past, you couldn’t have the history to bring you to where you are today. You understand humans are imperfect. That’s why we are continual students. When we make mistakes, we learn more – than from doing something right the first time. From failing, we grow and stretch and challenge ourselves.
Of course, growth is never easy and making mistakes can be scary. For instance, when you are in a new situation and you don’t understand what the possible results could be; in those cases, you dread the worst. I’ll never forget my first professional job comparing accounts payable to accounts receivable in the finance department of a global entertainment distribution company. When I would find different financials between the two accounts, I would give a report to the head of the finance and operations. We would go over the reports once a week together. In the interim, if I had questions, I could always go into her office and ask them. The same didn’t happen the other way around.
One day, Peggy, the COO and my boss, called me into her office. It wasn’t the day for us to go over our weekly report. My mind immediately went into overdrive. “What did I do wrong? What was she going to do? I was very careful in my work, what could have happened?” I walked into her office feeling unsure. “Susan”, she said, “sit down. There’s a few mistakes here you didn’t catch.” I sat down and looked up waiting for an explosion. It didn’t happen. She simply went over each mistake, allowing me to ask questions. As quickly as it began, it ended.
I looked at her. “That’s it? I can go back to my desk and continue working?” She nodded. “You’re going to give me another chance?” Peggy laughed. “Of course. Everyone makes mistakes. I know I do and expect you to call me out on them when I do. That’s why we have three people to look over these numbers. They come out of the finance department. You’re the second person to check them, before me. If I see something wrong and don’t ask you about it and then don’t explain to you where the error was, how could you learn? Or, you may be right and I could be wrong, how could I learn?” Returning to my desk, I was relieved; I had a second chance, maybe even a third. I was so lucky to have an encouraging boss, a leader and teacher.
Peggy, is actually, all of us: she had a choice to dismiss me for making a mistake or explain to me so I could learn about my errors, correct them, and hopefully not continue making the same ones. Because of her compassion, willingness and desire to teach, not only did I learn, I desired to do better. I also had my first brush with a workplace role model who was a woman in one of the top positions in the company. This also gave me something to aspire to.
If you had a Peggy, or a number of Peggy’s in your life, if people make mistakes, how likely are you to treat them like she did? How likely would you choose to judge them, instead? And reject them? Would you give someone a chance to learn from their ways in order to grow?
Does that same rationale also apply to a politician, a boss, an athlete with their status? Would you look at them with the same lens?
And, if that person who erred was you, would you want and expect the same treatment as you gave others?
The world needs more Peggy’s. Particularly during the uncertain and constantly changing circumstances we face today. More compassion, respect, and teaching. If you are in a position to support others or you are called to bring good change, encouragement, and growth – step into your light. Choose to take responsibility for yourself and your impact on others to reach your full potential.
If you would like to have a conversation on how you can do this, or do it fully or better, contact me: Susan@SusanGoldbergLeadership.com
We can grow together.