Mistakes Are Good! Failure is OK

1 Dec

We are trained our whole lives to do the right thing, and to avoid making “mistakes.” Our lives are more and more bombarded with a million tools to help us make all the right choices, and help us avoid making the wrong decision, or making any sort of a mistake. Growing up you were constantly judged by how “perfect” your scores were, and how few mistakes you made on a test, a paper, etc.

Alina Tugend writes a fascinating article in the New York times entitled: The Many Errors in Thinking About Mistakes. The article includes information about an experiment done by a Stanford professor with a classroom of fifth graders. It is amazing to see how quickly a 10 year old reacts to being praised for “trying hard” vs. “being smart.” The children praised for trying hard were more apt to try harder tasks — at the risk of making more mistakes.

When you apply these theories to business, it’s even more interesting. A good manager, according to this article is one that is not afraid to make mistakes — but then learns from them. A manager that doesn’t make mistakes is probably not taking risks, and most likely won’t have big wins. In the context of being entrepreneurial, and running your own business, this idea make a lot of sense. People who start successful businesses are risk takers. Taking risks means not everything is going to turn out exactly as you planned, and you will have to be able to deal with mistakes and learn quickly from them to keep your business running.

People often say that they want to start their own business, so that they “can be their own boss.” As someone who has started several businesses I can vouch that this is not EVER true. The business is your boss. Your spouse who invested the same money with you to start the business is your boss. Your children who need their schools and daycare paid are your boss. The vendor who needs to be paid is your boss. You best client is your boss. You unfortunately are not your own boss. BUT if you are willing to take the risk, willing to learn from your mistakes, it can be one heck of a ride, and a successful and lucrative one as well.

Nataly over at Work It Mom posted an article about her fears about running her own business. I think this fits exactly into the idea that people are afraid to make mistakes. It’s this fear that makes someone afraid to just do it and start their business. But at the same time this is a healthy fear that can keep making mistakes in perspective, and fuel a business to success. While I am sure that Nataly is not the only business owner that has fears about her business, she took the risk, made the leap, and started her business. I am sure that she has made mistakes along the way, and I am eve more sure that she has quickly learned and adjusted so as not to ever make those mistakes again. That is what it takes to run a business.

Think about it when your child wants to do something that may be too hard for him/her. think about how if encouraged correctly, and with the right support what you may be actually teaching your child is that they should try anything (within safe reason) and that you are OK if they make a few mistakes along the way. You never know – maybe you are raising the next Bill Gates!

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One Response to “Mistakes Are Good! Failure is OK”

  1. Zeroth December 8, 2007 at 6:20 am #

    Hey, I just stumbled across your blog, from Seth Godin’s blog, about the 8 billion waste in gift cards.

    Very awesome, you make a good role model for young girls, I think. :)

    And yeah, I was one of those special, ‘gifted’ kids. My parents treated me like all the others, and I did have special classes, but, really, the classes were great because they actually challenged me, and for the first time, I actually had to work to succeed.

    It was more helpful to learn that, than to be told I was smart. Now, I’m in University, getting good grades(top 25%). The article is so right.

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