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Only Let Yourself Make New Mistakes

Making mistakes in pursuit of your goals is an unavoidable part of the process. Some folks are afraid to make any mistakes at all and the result is they don’t take enough chances, embrace risk and try new things, which ultimately limits their chances of being successful. That being said, I think that you need to do your best to commit to only making new mistakes.

Defining a new mistake is really the key issue. Often thought leaders come up with ideas that appear new (because they may be new to them) and decide to move forward in an aggressive way to see if the idea has legs. We tend to favor our own ideas (if we don’t think they’re brilliant than who else would, right?).

Realizing that although an idea may be new to us there’s a pretty good chance someone has come up with a very similar concept and may have learned a thing or two along the way that could be beneficial to us. What I’d suggest is for thought leaders who come up with something “new” (and by the way there isn’t a group on the planet that comes up with more ideas than thought leaders do) is to assume someone has already done it before and invest some time and energy into researching if that is the case.

The objective shouldn’t be to dismiss your idea as one that isn’t worthy, but to seek out mistakes that others have made doing something comparable. If you can eliminate making the same mistakes that others have done and commit to only making new mistakes you will be able to fail faster AND succeed faster. It may sound like a contradiction but actually it isn’t. Focus on allowing yourself to make new mistakes, to build on what others have learned and to constantly tweak and adjust your ideas along the way.

A simple way to do this is to ask yourself, “If I do X and it is a mistake, would it be a new mistake or just a new mistake to me?” If it would only be new to you it isn’t a mistake worth making – commit to finding a better one.

Peter Winick

Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. A good reminder to “do our homework” for sure. And then there is the other obvious response: if you do make a mistake – make sure to reflect on the situation. Again, ask if you’d made it before; if yes, how can I recall this the next time it arises. Always, we need to reflect on what happened and what would have made things go better.

  2. Spot on with making sure you aren’t repeating someone else’s mistake, while not becoming so fearful to make one that you become paralyzed to move forward. I’ve seen people over-plan so much and wasting time worrying about the minutia, the opportunity came and went by the time they made sure every detail and is perfect.

  3. Since my daughter was 3 years old, I not only taught her that ‘messing up’ was OK, I insisted that she occasionally ‘mess up’ (reality check on her learning curve), but never twice on the same thing, and today at 13, she doesn’t think twice about any challenge. In the 7th grade, she took on Algebra I, passed with an ‘A’, and in 8th grade took High School Geometry, and passed with a ‘B’, which means she’ll start Algebra II in her Freshman year. Now compare that with ‘socialist’ academia, starting in kindergarten (No tag, no dodge ball, no keeping score, etc), they are teaching our kids to be risk adverse, and we wonder why there are fewer business start-ups (Hudson Report). Where are the high-flying, risk taking free enterprise entrepreneurs that put it all on the line, and use money as a means of keeping score ? Our 12th graders can’t even balance a check book. We traded them in for degrees in the humanities, tending bar for minimum wage. JK Rowling wrote a great commencement speech on failure, and if you can find it, read it. It’s worth it.

  4. […] Do you honestly expect to become confident and good at what you do if you’re afraid of failure? One thing I’ve noticed about myself lately is that I’ve substituted fear with a form of acknowledgement. I acknowledge the fact that I might fail miserably at a number of things (since I often do stuff pretty spontaneously and without any idea what I’m doing) but I’m not afraid of it. Believe me, I used to be – I vaguely remember someone crying in the TOEFL waiting room while waiting for the next part of the test to begin. I’m not saying that person was me, but I’m not saying I don’t love cats either. Anyway, all of us have failed in something, right? (If you haven’t don’t talk to me.) I’ve never failed a test in my entire existence, but I’ve failed in life many times. A bad relationship? Check. Disappointing a friend? Check. Letting a client down? Check. And you know what? That’s AWESOME! If I hadn’t had a bad relationship, I wouldn’t have an insanely amazing one now. If I hadn’t disappointed my friends at least once, I wouldn’t know what disappoints them. If I hadn’t let down a client, I wouldn’t have learned how to manage my work better. Failure is cool, because it helps you become a better person. As long as you ONLY MAKE NEW MISTAKES. […]

  5. Do you honestly expect to become confident and good at what you do if you’re afraid of failure? One thing I’ve noticed about myself lately is that I’ve substituted fear with a form of acknowledgement. I acknowledge the fact that I might fail miserably at a number of things (since I often do stuff pretty spontaneously and without any idea what I’m doing) but I’m not afraid of it. Believe me, I used to be – I vaguely remember someone crying in the TOEFL waiting room while waiting for the next part of the test to begin. I’m not saying that person was me, but I’m not saying I don’t love cats either. Anyway, all of us have failed in something, right? (If you haven’t, don’t talk to me.) I’ve never failed a test in my entire existence, but I’ve failed in life many times. A bad relationship? Check. Disappointing a friend? Check. Letting a client down? Check. And you know what? That’s AWESOME! If I hadn’t had a bad relationship, I wouldn’t have an insanely amazing one now. If I hadn’t disappointed my friends at least once, I wouldn’t know what disappoints them. If I hadn’t let down a client, I wouldn’t have learned how to manage my work better. Failure is cool, because it helps you become a better person. As long as you ONLY MAKE NEW MISTAKES.

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