Making Mistakes is the Easy Part

Mike Camp

When we think about the many mistakes we have made throughout our lives, it becomes easy to dwell on them. Dwelling (or "reflecting") on mistakes is a method to analyze what you did wrong and how you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

I recently heard someone say, "The reason we learn from our mistakes is because we dwell on them and analyze them to death, fearing that we may make them again." No one enjoys making mistakes or thinks of them as "no big deal"; but how big of a deal are they really?

When we make mistakes, one of the most critical aspects of the "getting over it" process occurs when the mistake is handled not only by the individual, but by others. Whether it is a coach responding to an athlete who missed the game-winning shot, or a supervisor visiting with someone who just made a mistake, how it is handled becomes very important. If the coach were to scold the athlete and embarrass them in front of the team, the athlete may never attempt the game-winning shot again. On the same hand, if your supervisor punishes you severely for making a mistake, it could lead to you recoil and not take chances in the future; therefore, stifling your growth.

Michael Jordan once said,"I’ve missed 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." Even though Michael Jordan was an exceptional athlete, it would have been extremely difficult for him to have accomplished what he did in the NBA if his coaches handled his mistakes poorly.

What an amazing reminder on the importance of staying focused on the mission and never quitting! What would the landscape of the NBA look like if there was never an "Air Jordan"; or what about the impact no "Air Jordan" would have made on NIKE? This story reminds us how we all fail at times. We don’t achieve all of the goals we set, and unfortunately, we sometimes fail more frequently than we would like.

As leaders, it becomes so critical for us to ensure we not only handle our own mistakes properly, but that we know how to respond to mistakes made by others. If we choose to scold people for every little mistake they make, we should know the consequences could be worse in the end. With this being said, we also cannot choose to overlook mistakes, as they are a great way to learn and to develop others through them. If accountability is handled in a respectful manner in which the person is made to understand the mistakes, the odds are better for a successful rebound. If the accountability is handled poorly, the risk of stifling someone’s creativity and decision-making ability will increase. As long as we keep accountability from becoming personal or disrespectful, most people admit to having made a mistake and can accept the repercussions.

Problems mainly arise when we choose to handle accountability in a disrespectful manner that is not focused on helping the person learn from the mistake. When I think about how we should handle accountability, I think my father’s motto sums it up: "Treat people as if you had to spend the rest of your life with them in a very small room."

"When things happen to us that aren’t exactly what we had hoped for, there are a number of ways we can respond. But there’s only one response that will help us to move on toward the promise of a new day full of opportunities. Get over it, get up, and try it again." – Tony Dungy