All new things start by making many, many mistakes. They let us learn, let us get better and make us lose our fear of new experiences. Nothing holds us back more than to think that making mistakes is a bad thing.
That lesson has changed my way of thinking a lot. I am not always able to life it. I often fail at it. But using this different mindset to approach things is magical.
When I look back at past mistakes that I made, and compare what they have cost me – trouble, time, money, etc. – with what I have learnt from them, then I always realise: this has been a bargain.
Sure, first I want to kick my butt for screwing up. I am angry for being so stupid. But just as well I can think: “I have learnt that lesson. I am never going to make this mistake again.”
We have to learn all the the time anyway. So why not with this mindset.
As good old Albert Einstein once said: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
How many times did ponder over a problem for days and postponed solving it… and why? Because I was scared to screw up. By now I don’t care anymore. Especially when I tackle something new. I take care to make all possible mistakes as soon as possible. Then that’s off the plate and I can start having success.
Just do it
The possibility that something goes wrong the first time around is always there. How else should it be – how could I start something new and do it like a pro right away?
I could spend a lot of time to think something through again and again, plan and check for every possible outcome. Then my chances of success are probably a bit higher. Or, I could just do it. My chances of screwing up are going to be a little higher, but on the other hand I have enough time left over to try it again and again and again.
And I learn two things doing that:
- When something does indeed go wrong, I usually see that it is by far not as bad as I imagined it. The next time around I will therefore approach it with much more confidence.
- I get the chance to analyse what it was that I did wrong. If I get into the same situation next time around, I will be smarter. I will probably still not know the right solution. But I already know one that doesn’t work.
To say it with the words of Thomas Edison: “I haven’t failed. I found 1000 ways to not do it.”
In a pottery class they once did this experiment, where they split the class into two groups. One group would work on the same vase for the duration of the course. Put all their time, effort and love to detail into this one piece. The other group had to finish up their vase at the end of the session, and start a new one the next day. No matter how it looked or wether it was finished or not. Who do you think had the best vases at the end of the course? Those that had done dozens of vases, instead of giving their best on just one.
For the pro: the journal
If you want to accelerate the process, keep a journal. That is a kind of diary, just without the “Dear diary, today he smiled at me, I’m so in love…” stuff. No doodles of hearts and all that. A journal. You put all the things in it that you’ve have learned about something. Every little detail. Because it’s the details that are easily forgotten. When you step out of a job interview, you might think of twenty things that you want to do differently next time. That is all great, but the next day you will only be able to remember ten of them
A hundred times “No”
A friend of mine had this genius idea. He called it “100 Days Rejection”. It has always been horrible for him to be rejected. So he came up with the idea of simply getting used to hear “No”. To purposefully ask for it so many times that he didn’t care anymore. Jia did the most unusual experiments for the next 100 days, just to be rejected. And put them all up on youtube: He would show up at a strangers door, and ask if he could play soccer in his backyard. At an airstrip he asked the pilot of a gyroplane, if he would allow him to fly it. Or he brought his PC to the apple store to have it repaired.
Apart from the fact that after a few days he didn’t care about the No’s anymore, another result was that often, he wasn’t even rejected at all! Not even with this craziest ideas.
I could re-read and re-write this blog post for days and weeks, trying to make it perfect. Or I could just put it online and write the next one. So here we go.
Where would you like to make more mistakes, in order to get better? What would you like to not be afraid of anymore?