Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
Those who achieve great success rarely get there on the first try. These daring individuals are the ones who make mistake after mistake, but refuse to let it get the best of them. They don’t stop. They learn from those mistakes and correct course.
Take a look at baseball statistics ranking players with the most strikeouts and you’ll see the game’s greatest athletes at the top of the list. Though they struck out a lot, they continued to swing the bat. And it’s because they kept swinging that we hold them in such high regard. They’re not remembered for the strikeouts, but for the way they played the game.
Eventual success arrives for those willing to make the effort, accept and learn from mistakes, and move forward.
When We Fear Mistakes
I once heard an organizational leader tell employees they weren’t allowed to make mistakes. The facility was not a nuclear energy plant. The staff was not in the medical profession. No life or death scenarios hung in the balance if someone blundered. But it was made very clear that mistakes were not tolerated.
Sadly, what this leader failed to realize was that such an expectation put the brakes on progress. Rather than motivating employees to do their best work, the boss instead created a pressure cooker environment.
The team worked in a constant state of anxiety. Employees were too fearful of making a mistake to attempt anything extraordinary. After all, if that new idea failed or the plan didn’t work, the mistake would be forever recorded in the employee’s permanent file.
So, employees played it safe, made few mistakes, and the status quo hummed right along.
There’s nothing wrong with pursuing excellence. After all, that’s what we strive for. Our goal is not to fail, but to succeed. Yet far too often, fear of getting it wrong prevents us from starting at all. We end up stuck in a paralyzed state fearing the worst instead of concentrating on the benefits of what happens when we do get it right.
What we need to remember is that mistakes and failure come with the territory when we try something new, seek to expand, or stretch ourselves. Mistakes are not signs of weakness or a lack of intelligence. Rather, blunders are normal and to be expected.
It’s Worth the Attempt
Fear of making mistakes prohibits our growth. The worst mistake we can possibly make is not to risk making one. Far better to accept slip-ups and missteps as part of the process.
As thought leader Seth Godin put it, “At some level, ‘this might not work’ is at the heart of all important projects, of everything new and worth doing.”
Most anything worth the effort will come with risks. Only we can decide if we’re willing to attempt it anyway. Allowing ourselves the freedom to make mistakes ensures we move forward regardless of the outcome.
What has helped you overcome a fear of making mistakes? Let me know in the comments section.