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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks

Oops, I did it again!

With some decisions I’ve over-thought them, looked at them from every possible angle. With others, I’ve jumped in headfirst with absolutely zero thought. I’ve taken wrong turns, both figuratively and literally; dated wrong people; said yes to wrong things and no to right things. What I’m trying to say is that when it comes to mistakes, I’ve run the gamut from the small to the gigantic. And I’m better for it.

Turns out, I’m not alone in this belief; there are tons of quotes about mistakes and failure. Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.”

“The greatest mistake a man can ever make is to be afraid of making one” wrote Elbert Hubbard, American writer and philosopher.

Thomas Edison, the man who held 1,093 US patents, said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.”

I was recently asked to give a speech to the newest, youngest hires in a large company. When I inquired what concepts they would like for me to cover, I suggested creativity, leadership skills, and things of that nature. The woman who was hiring me agreed that those would be good, but she immediately added, “We really want to emphasize the fact that it’s OK to ask questions, and it’s OK to make mistakes.”

I was so impressed. That’s not a concept you typically hear in corporate America. Making mistakes could cost the company money, and the common fear is that a mistake, regardless of its size, could cost someone their job. But this corporation realizes how short-sighted this view is. If employees are NOT making any errors it means they are not trying hard, not pushing the boundaries, not thinking creatively.

The good news is that scientists have used brain scans to show our brains grow more when we make mistakes. Based on these facts, I will admit I am concerned about how big my brain is now and that there is no slow-down in sight for its continued growth.

When we make a mistake - let’s think of shooting a basketball- when we miss the shot, our brain realizes it almost before “we” do. Then a second later our conscious mind catches up when we see that the reality doesn’t match with our vision or goal.

The next time we go to make a shot, we respond more slowly, giving our brains more time to avoid making the mistake again. Pretty impressive stuff.

So while it’s not pleasant to make mistakes, they are not necessarily bad. They mean we’re branching out, trying new things, growing not only in confidence but also in knowledge. But it also means I may need some help holding my head up. My brain’s just way too big.

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