how your mistakes + failures point the way to your success
I was in an apartment in downtown Manhattan talking to a friend about a chunk of my life I felt I’d lost to an unhealthy relationship. I could have done so much more, I said, if I hadn’t allowed myself to get so sidetracked, my self-esteem yanked inside out until I didn’t think I could do much of anything.
She mentioned that regret is nothing but an energy drain.
She pointed out how much deeper my relationships are now because of everything I’ve been forced to learn about myself and my fear of intimacy and my attraction to difficult situations. If anything, she said, I am likely to become an expert on authentic, loving, nurturing relationships, not in spite of but because of my spotty history with them.
This is the flip side, the gift side, of our vulnerability.
I have a close relative who dealt with his traumatic childhood by becoming a psychologist.
In my years of working out, I couldn’t help but notice how many personal trainers were recovering from body image issues and eating disorders.
And I’ve always been kind of fascinated by novelist Dennis Lehane’s admission that he decided to write mysteries in order to learn about plot. At the time, he was a talented MFA student who wrote literary short stories…and couldn’t plot to save his life. Now he writes some of the most gripping fiction out there: critically acclaimed, on bestselling lists, turned into movies by Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood.
Odd, how the things that make us vulnerable are the things that can make us so strong. Our mistakes and failures point the way to our success. They expose — if we’re willing to look — the blind spots in our understanding. They show us where we need to go, and what we need to learn, and who we need to partner with or mentor under in order to become what we need to be.
And if you know anything about deliberate practice, you know that the fastest way to learn is through making mistakes. Mistakes force the brain to slow down, to evaluate things, to pay sharp attention and truly think its way forward (instead of shifting into automatic pilot). When you’re pushing the edges of your abilities, you lay down new neural pathways that pave the way to greater learning and deeper accomplishment. It’s not easy….but it’s damn effective, and ten thousand hours (minimum) of deliberate practice seems to be what separates the good from the great.
So if we learn this much from our mistakes, why do we get so afraid to make them? Or admit them?
What is the price that we pay?
Fail. Forward. Fast. (“Reward Excellent Failures, Punish
“Fail often to succeed sooner.”
— IDEO company slogan