August 12, 2018

Mistakes: the Gift of Beginning Again

 “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”-- Proverbs 24:16 (KJV)

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King Solomon, the main author of the book of Proverbs, may have had several towering figures in mind when he wrote the verse above. Many great prophets and kings made errors before meeting their destiny:
  • His own father, King David (Bathsheba was Solomon’s mother.)
  • Paul
  • Elijah
  • Moses
  • Peter

Modern Setbacks

 “Mistakes are how we learn.” This is an observation several wise people have made to me. The saying makes sense. Certain activities are always a process. We can’t accomplish them in one try. Here are a few examples:
  • Learning to walk
  • Mastering an instrument
  • Graduating from school
  • Grasping a craft
  • Becoming a skilled writer

Those of us with a perfectionist tendency can be traumatized by our mistakes. Such an attitude may even cause us to avoid new places, people, and situations. We might miss out on taking our talents and social skills to the next level.

Mindset: the new Psychology of Success, by Carol. S. Dweck, Ph.D.

This excellent book explores two attitudes towards failure. Some individuals believe every blunder is a catastrophe. Other people see every setback as a challenge to begin again. Here is a summary of the personalities:

Fixed Mindset
“I have to be able do this correctly now, or it’s not worth doing. I will never improve. I only have this one chance. If I fail now, I have to give up.”
Motto: “If at first you don’t succeed, give up and judge yourself harshly.”
Growth Mindset
“If my ability isn’t currently perfect, I haven’t failed. I can keep trying. I get as many “do-overs” as necessary. I may have a long path ahead of me, but I’m willing to do the work to be successful.”
Motto: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Winners always have an attitude of growth. They win because they refuse to give up. Period. If one way doesn’t work, they immediately look for an alternate route. Let’s look at two examples:


George de Mestral invented Velcro° in the 1940s. The entrepreneur immediately tried to market the fastener to the fashion-design industry. His product would have made getting dressed much simpler, but that business was (and is) all about appearance. Mestral’s creation didn’t look good at that time, although he later revised it. The material was plain and bulky. Those were both deal breakers.

In due time, the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) did show an interest in the new invention. It was worthwhile for space suits and for securing all manner of objects in space vehicles.

Of course, Velcro® is widely used today. For instance, we see it in many children’s shoes, as pictured above.

Super Glue®

This well-known adhesive was first discovered by accident in the 1940s.  Dr. Harry Coover’s original objective was to formulate protective coatings for military purposes. That goal wasn’t reached.

The formula that became Super Glue® brought about a different destiny. It unexpectedly, and immediately, bonded two prisms together. They couldn’t be pried apart. The scientist recognized the usefulness of his discovery. Millions of consumers still use the product today.

My Conclusion

“A person who falls and gets back up is much stronger than a person who never fell.”—Psychology Living (@LIvPsy)
“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting, and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been.”—psychologist Dan Gilbert

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Do you see mistakes as an opportunity to learn?

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