Using Mistakes

Using Mistakes

We’re doing this wrong.  It’s a mistake to think mistakes are dishonorable.  We miss the boat when we avert our eyes, embarrassed that one happened–to someone else or to yourself. It’s also a mistake to think they are something a really good person (like YOU) can avoid all the time.

We are human. Humans make mistakes. We’ve been taught to see them as flaws….things we should have gotten right the first time. But guess what? We learn better when we don’t get it right the first time. When everything goes right, it’s hard to figure out why. That means it’s hard to replicate that success. When things go wrong, you need to correct. You adjust one thing at a time to get things to go right the next time. Once you do, you know what works.

We don’t do this for every single step of everything we do. But we do enough of it that we have learned a whole lot more about whatever it is we are trying to master than if we’d gotten it right the first time. Mistakes are important.

When we make a mistake with a person, there’s another opportunity. To admit a mistake to another takes courage and humility–traits effective people have and unsuccessful people do not. So you get a jump start on learning how to be effective in social settings if you get comfortable with making a mistake in that setting–and then correcting it.

But what about when other people make mistakes. What’s the benefit of that in your world? Well, when it’s a mistake that affects you, you have the chance to learn to forgive. When we can accept the imperfection inherent in us all and let whatever happened pass, we become emotionally stronger people.

What about the situations that you just hear about? Where someone made a terrible mistake with someone else that doesn’t directly affect you in any way whatsoever? That is the best opportunity you will ever get to take the measure of that person as a person. Someone who owns the mistake, acknowledges that it was wrong, and then proves they have learned to not do that in how they live from there forward is worth trusting. Someone who blames someone else (often everyone else!) for what happened, who has no remorse over what they did, and who doesn’t have a clue how to change that behavior is not worth trusting.

We need to get to where we are doing this with people who want us to make them our elected officials. Every single one of them has made mistakes. And the media, since they are focused on getting attention for their work, are going to do their best to uncover every single mistake of every single candidate. What do you do with that?

You use it!

How does that person handle being called out for a past mistake? Do theyu own it? How long ago was it? Is there evidence between then and now that suggests it’s ingrained or has the person evolved over the years? What do those involved think of the mistake. (Sometimes, the media are the only ones doing the arm-flapping.)

The model we are currently using for news information is flawed. We have way too much sensationalism and not enough fact checking and integrity in what’s published, particularly online. But we can do a lot better with what they do offer us, too.

First, there’s fact checking, of course. But if this person did do that horrible, terrible, no-good thing, find out how long ago it was. Watch how that person deals with the information coming to light. Owning the mistake and explaining what they learned and how they do things now because of learning it is a person worth your vote. Claiming it never happened or blaming someone else because it did is spineless.

We don’t even want Spineless as dogcatcher.

HOW we deal with mistakes matters.  It’s a measure of character, emotional development, and problem solving skill.  It’s also a test of whether we can LEARN.  People who make the same mistakes again and again have a problem we need to notice.

But when we discount others because of a mistake, we deny ourselves the chance to vet based on true evidence of competence.  When we go with the person who supposedly never makes a mistake, we are buying in on a fake.  WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES. It’s what we do once they happen that determines our quality as people.

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