Celebrating Mistakes

Paraphrasing the film director Akira Kurosawa, a typical day in the life of a Samurai might be, carve a perfect wooden spoon, make a perfect cup of tea, fight a perfect battle, build a perfect fire, make a slight mistake riding his horse, go home, and kill himself.

I agree in spirit with the response of being mortified by a mistake. But I also view the mistake as a hurdle to get past, instead of a terminal failure. Mortification produces focus. It should be channeled to stimulate improvement, so you don’t let it happen again. This is a healthy professional and personal attitude to take towards mistakes.

Mistakes are a red flag that you need to improve, practice more, train more, rehearse more, get more sleep, focus better. You are the main benefactor of your own development, but others also benefit. It achieves both self-improvement and social improvement.

Some people take the opposite extreme attitude and say, “Hey, we’re only human, people make mistakes, it’s OK.” I don’t agree. It’s not OK. Mistakes undermine yourself, and the daily mistakes of the whole population have a cumulative effect that undermines society. Taking mistakes seriously is one way to be socially responsible.

I say, don’t be only human, be fully human, and use mistakes as an impetus to reduce future mistakes.

The title of this entry is “Celebrating Mistakes,” with a slight twist on the meaning of celebrate. It does not mean happy-go-lucky festivities in honor of screw-ups, it is a grim focus underlining an exciting opportunity to develop, to do better, to become more fully human. Now that’s cause for celebration.

This entry partly from my book
Potential of an Active Mind: How to Recapture the Magic of Everyday Life
© copyright Robert Rose-Coutré 2009, 2011, and 2012 [Another in my occasional series on being mortified by mistakes, and being fully human (note: Kurosawa is a Samurai descendant)]

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