The worst advice I ever received (about “mistakes”)

November 7, 2009

I was in junior high school, and it was time for our first “dance”. I put dance in quotes, because it wasn’t about dancing at all, but about sitting on the far side of the room, not getting to courage to ask a girl (young woman) to dance. Any real dancing happened in the mandatory dance class that our gym teacher taught. And that’s where I heard it:

If you take little steps, you’ll make little mistakes.

Yes, it’s true, the tiny step might not take me too far in the wrong direction.  And small steps in dancing might be more graceful.

But as advice for life . . . totally wrong! Look around, think ahead, plot your course, and take a real step.  Don’t be afraid of mistakes.

Mistakes?  The original  core values and beliefs ftext from (an Internet Service Provider) included the statement that they encourage employees to make mistakes.  They’ve left out that part, but still include the following helpful clarification:

We see a huge difference between “good mistakes” (best effort, bad result) and “bad mistakes” (sloppiness or lack of effort).

With this distinction, it should be clear that the best response to not knowing how to dance isn’t taking small steps — it’s learning more about dancing, making a real effort.  The steps taken should be deliberate — not tentative — steps.

A dose of realism: It may be fine to take measured steps.  Introduce a new product, a new dish on the menu, a new service — but don’t bet the company, the restaurant, the consulting firm on this innovation.  Measure the resources you’re spending, and be aware that it might not work as planned.  Be prepared to lose sometimes, win often.  But don’t hide from your mistakes — embrace them!

2 Responses to “The worst advice I ever received (about “mistakes”)”

  1. Louanne said

    In my dance class tonight I learned that to really understand how to make an upward movement, you have to first learn how to sink more deeply into the ground. In order to do that you have to commit to it, or in this case the upward movement, before it happens.

    I think you have to also commit to your mistakes. Sounds crazy but I really think it’s true. If you do then you create room to learn from them…otherwise it can be hard to say just what is up, down, or somewhere in the vast middle.

  2. I highly enjoyed reading this article, keep up posting such interesting posts!

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