Why Making Mistakes Can Be a Beautiful Thing

"What is the secret of success?"

"Right decisions."

"How do you make right decisions?"

"Experience."

"How do you gain experience?"

"Wrong decisions."

-Abdul Kalam


 

I was always terrified of regret.

 

When faced with a decision or turning point, I'd agonize...

 

"What if I go left, and I should have gone right? What if I ruin this by doing something wrong?"

 

I would stew, plan, and ruminate. I used to just stop there, actually: so afraid of doing the wrong thing that I wouldn't do anything.

 

Analysis to paralysis.

Photo credit: Ariel Lustre

Photo credit: Ariel Lustre

 

But as life passed me by and I waited for a cue (or confidence, or certainty, or...) I realized that living my life like that would have me sitting on the couch forever. Flipping the stations, both on the actual TV and in my mind: watching the imaginary versions of my life pass me by.

 

One day I stopped waiting to be sure of myself and started just doing stuff anyway. Taking baby steps, dipping my toes in the waters of risk..learning that it was perfectly possible to make mistakes and not die.

 

I realized that I could turn left and then decide it was the wrong way...and reroute. Dust myself (and my ego) off, and make another choice.

 

I've done this multiple times, in multiple arenas, and the world has continued to spin...even amidst the "wrong" decisions.

 

I found that so much of what had been holding me back was the quest to be good at everything before I started it: an impossible feat, I would tell any child-- but something I somehow expected from myself. I wanted certainty, confidence, and guaranteed success.

 

But allowing myself to be "bad" at life (or a job, or a relationship, or a new skill) also set the stage for me to eventually become better: simply taking steps toward some direction provided clarity, for better or for worse.

 

I still have my couch time; I'm just as obsessed with Stranger Things as the next guy. But now my couch time is punctuated by days full of choices, actions, and, yes...mistakes.

 

Those mistakes are part of how I know I'm still alive.