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If you’ve read this blog for any period of time you know that I’m a big fan of mistakes. Sometimes people misinterpret what that means.

I love mistakes only under one circumstance: That you get to learn something and the mistake doesn’t put you in personal or financial risk.

Mistakes can be too painful.

Let’s face it, mistakes hurt even if no one sees the mistake you made. It’s one of the reasons we try to avoid them at all costs. No one wants to do something that they know is going to hurt.

For many the pain of making mistakes when they were younger is just too much to get over. As you move towards becoming an adult mistakes you make remind you of all the pain you had as a kid. The pain you feel might have been caused by your parents, your siblings, or even your friends. You could have made up your mind that you’ll never make another mistake. When you made that decision you also made the decision not to grow. Is that what you wanted to happen?

Successful people never bet the ranch.

There seems to be a myth that successful people got there by taking big risks. To you it might look like a big risk. When Amazon spends a billion dollars buying Zappos that looks like a big risk. In reality it’s not. If the investment went sour Amazon would still exist.

Smart people never bet the ranch. They look at the risk they’re taking and if they make a mistake they want to know that they can afford it. The smartest people I know never bet the store. They all have a mantra that is a variance of fail fast, fail cheap. Inexpensive tries can become inexpensive mistakes. As long as you ask “what did I learn” it’s all worth it.

Mistakes can have a cost that’s much more than financial risk.

For some people making a mistake has nothing to do with financial risk. It’s all about personal risk. You might not want to look foolish in front of your peers. You might believe that if you make a mistake or get found out for making one you could get fired.

We often don’t want to make a mistake because we’re afraid that something is going to happen to us as a person. Under the best case when you make a mistake you get to learn something. In the worst case you might look foolish. Neither is life threatening.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

I sometimes find that those who don’t want to make mistakes just take themselves too seriously. There really is no one staring at you. No one is all that concerned about what you do. You might think this is true. Trust me, it’s not. If you make a mistake most of the people in the world won’t even notice. If they do, they’ll forget your mistake quickly and move on.

Mistakes are not about your ego. If they are you could just be taking yourself a little too seriously. I have two words of advice on this issue: Stop it. Don’t take yourself so seriously, and you’ll be glad you did.

It’s all about the ability to learn.

The real purpose of mistakes is to learn something. It’s really too bad that our media doesn’t allow our leaders to make mistakes and learn from them. Instead we get bills that are too big and complicated. We get blaming and justifying actions instead of people saying it’s my fault and this is what I learned.

I hate when the media talks about flip-flopping. Instead they should ask the question, “What did you learn?” If the person who changed their mind doesn’t have a good answer, then the media could and should excoriate them. Doesn’t that sound like a better idea?

For you, make your mantra “what did I learn?” I ask this question several times a day and I’m glad I do.

One of the areas where we always get to learn more is in the coaching process. We’ve developed a process we call performance coaching. This process is designed to replace the dreaded job review. We have a mind map that explains what performance coaching is all about. If you’re interested in getting this mind map, click on the button below.

performance coaching mind map

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