OH! That Was a Mistake!

Ink on Pastel Paper – Words: Mahatma Ghandi

I find it ironic that this piece started from a mistake. I was using a blue fountain pen and smeared the ink all over the page and my hand, I liked the way it looked so much that I built the word ‘mistake’ around smearing ink with water. I very much appreciate Ghandi’s thought process here, freedom includes positive and negative outcomes for us all.

Learning requires the freedom to make mistakes. I took a class and found myself very frustrated as the teacher only wanted our work to look like their work; experimentation and mistakes were not an option. I found myself shutting down when perfection was the only course, I felt no idea other than the instructor’s were considered viable, and as I felt unable to hit that mark I checked out. I learned a great deal that I apply to my work, that classroom was just not the place for mistakes to be utilized for learning.

I then thought about the times I created an environment for myself or others where perfection was the only expectation. Looking back I can see the reasons why that activity failed. As none of us are perfect forcing the perfectionist thought process stifles learning, creativity and growth. Being willing to allow mistakes means we have to accept our own as well. That can be a difficult pill to swallow when we had high hopes for a positive result to only face utter failure, a huge mistake, or a a little miss that feels like a mile.

I do know that my greatest life lessons, skill lessons, and best practices have all come from mistakes. I do things now because the mistake has stuck with me such that I never want to fail that way again. Experience is a great teacher only if we learn enough to not do it that way again. As leaders, teachers, colleagues, and parents how we react and help others process through their mistakes leaves as big a mark as the actual mistake itself. Allowing others to make mistakes – even if we can prevent it – allows them these life lessons. It can be grueling to watch it happen, and yet for them that mistake is THEIR life lesson. We all need to be given the gift of learning from our own mistakes, not allowing that to happen is another BIG mistake.

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