The Power of Fucking Up

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Today I’d like to talk about the power of making mistakes, or as I phrased it above, fucking up.  One of my biggest complaints regarding the public educational system is the process by which we educate students to fear and avoid making mistakes.  Children enter the educational system with curiosity and a willingness to take risks.  At around 4th or 5th grade, we learn that making mistakes is wrong, embarrassing, and often punishable.  We learn that there are “right” answers and in our desire to avoid the negativity associated with making mistakes, the vast majority of us stop taking risks.

Achievement experts know that the road to great accomplishment is riddled with tons of mistakes.  In fact, the people who have achieved the greatest levels of success have usually made more mistakes than the average person.

Individuals who live their lives attempting to avoid making mistakes are more likely to be under-achievers and to report lower levels of overall happiness in their lives.  Their well being is contingent on a universal planetary alignment that produces perfect health, financial stability, relationships absent of conflict and low stress levels.  And because the planets are rarely aligned in accordance with their needs, they often find themselves dissatisfied with their lives.

Mistake-avoiders associate fucking up with shame and humiliation, and they live their lives seeking that which is ever elusive and the antithesis of greatness:  Perfection.  Their emotional investment in being viewed as perfect stands in direct contradiction to those behaviors associated with excellence:  A willingness to identify mistakes in order to learn from them and do better the next time.

In contrast, great achievers live their lives attuned to their imperfections.  They look for shortcomings and areas of weakness because they strive to better develop themselves, and they can only do that if they are aware of their mistakes.  This minority population looks for opportunities to take responsibility for situations instead of ways in which they might deflect it.  They view mistakes as data which is necessary to their ongoing quest for progress.

People who regularly make mistakes have a much higher level of recovery than the rest of us.  They bounce back from failure and disappointment with greater ease because they experience it more often.  Furthermore, because they expect a certain percentage of their efforts to fail, they don’t have the negative associations with making mistakes that the majority of people do.

Think of the learning that would occur if we could simply be curious instead of being judgmental.  If we reflected on situations-gone-wrong without the compulsive inclination to cover our asses.  Imagine a world where we had roundtable discussions (with a big bowl of popcorn in the middle) about what went wrong, without any chance of retribution, blame or negativity.  Can you fathom the wealth of knowledge that would result?

The way I see it, the only problem with making mistakes is making the same old ones.  So decide that tomorrow you’re going to make a brand new mistake, because that’s what separates the best from the rest.