Making Mistakes is Good Medicine

April 19, 2021

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You were probably raised to try to never make mistakes. Maybe you’re really hard on yourself when you do. Or maybe you give yourself a bit of slack when you make simple mistakes (like forgetting to put the coffee creamer back in the fridge), but inside you’re still harsh on yourself.

After over 1,000 failed attempts at producing a viable light bulb, Thomas Edison’s engineers begged him to let them quit. They were feeling beaten by the daily failures and wanted to taste success again. “NO!” said Edison. And thank God he said that, otherwise our world might be very different right now.

Edison’s teachers told him that he was, “too stupid to learn anything…”

I don’t know Edison’s thought process, but I can only imagine he’s still laughing in his grave!

The sad reality is many of us were told in words (or non-words) that we’re stupid, dumb, slow, a loser, etc. Then on top of that, you’re told, “Don’t screw it up! Don’t make a mistake!”

Y’know what happens when you live like that? Your body gets stiff. Or your heart hardens. Or your mind becomes narrow. Or, all of the above. Which will ironically lead you to make a lot more mistakes!

The solution? Make mistakes. Lots of them. Get good at it. Edison said regarding his failed light bulbs, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He also said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

But there’s a trick to this method – you can’t just try the same thing over and over and expect different results. That’s one definition of insanity.

So take any activity you like to do. Say you like to play piano. Do you make mistakes and beat yourself up? Take a deep breath – then make the mistake again. Get really good at it, but do it slightly differently each time. Hit the wrong key or have the wrong rhythm or whatever. Do it on purpose. Then take another deep breath and try playing the tune again, aiming for your best version of it, without intentionally trying to make mistakes. How did that turn out?

While this approach works for piano players, it can applied to almost anything, barring professions like brain surgeons (though I’m sure they must have made mistakes to learn their craft, eesh!) So practicing mistakes in a hobby or leisure activity is a good place to start. It will help train you for more ease in the “big” things in life — like relationships, finances, education and careers.

Wanna try this together with me? In this qigong exercise, let’s break free from any “doing it right” and move with some goofiness! Let me know in the comments below how you feel after doing this.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Susan Crampton May 23, 2021 at 6:08 pm

No, I wasn’t raised to never make mistakes, Jason, but in my older, wiser, and more wrinkled stage of life, I definitely include learning from mistakes, Learning and Growing, on my short list of priorities. Your goofiness had some fun to it : ).

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