Focus: Make Mistakes

Disciplines: Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Team Learning

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
— John Powell

I have no idea if I make more mistakes than most people – but I sure make a lot of them.

Last month’s Fresh Views went out with the title “Enter Edition Subject” instead of “Celebrating Differences”. I tried to send out a correction but couldn’t figure out how.

Recently I was getting gas at the BP, and I ran into the store to buy a gallon of milk. I came back to my car and drove away, forgetting the nozzle was still in the car. When someone started honking, I was oblivious. A kind woman knocked on my window to let me know the honker was trying to tell me I’d driven away from the pump still hooked up! Luckily when I returned to the pump, nothing was hurt. I was just embarrassed.

When my husband Hal and I were shopping last week, he grabbed a large carton of cottage cheese and it got away from him, plummeting to the floor with a splat. I flagged down a store man and told him we’d had a cottage cheese accident. He looked at Hal, who had cottage cheese on his jacket, glove and shoe, and said, “I can see who is responsible.” Hal said, “Mistakes were made.” The friendly man threatened to clean it up with Hal’s hat.

Many years ago, I led a large drug and alcoholic treatment center into becoming totally smoke-free. The health dangers of tobacco had been proven, and many of our patients smoked. It was the right thing to do. We had treated too many people who got sober, only to die of a nicotine-related illness. But we made mistakes. Some of our staff still smoked, in spite of assisted attempts to quit. The patients developed a black market in cigarettes. Many potential patients refused to come to our center. After nine months, it became clear that if we wanted to continue with our primary mission of treating drug and alcohol addicts, we had to modify our hard no-smoking stance. So we did.

I like Richard Needham’s perspective: “Strong people make as many mistakes as weak people. Difference is that strong people admit their mistakes, laugh at them, learn from them. That is how they become strong.”

Hal once made a serious mistake when he signed a contract hiring consultants to facilitate his company’s annual planning retreat. There was a $10,000 penalty clause in the contract if the retreat was cancelled without 10 days notice. Since the retreat was to be in Phoenix in February, Hal figured they were safe in terms of weather. However, he hadn’t realized how important golf was to the event. It rained and the CEO cancelled the event just days before its scheduled start. When the CEO received the $10,000 bill, he called Hal, understandably furious. Hal’s response was to be deeply apologetic, taking full responsibility. He acknowledged making a “serious error in judgment,” and promised it would not happen again. The CEO mellowed immediately and the incident was never mentioned again.

Henry C. Link said it well, “While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.”

Coaching Tips:

  1. Dare to try things, which means you will inevitably make mistakes.
  2. Remember that mistakes are human. When you make one, laugh, forgive yourself and move on.
  3. Acknowledge your mistakes.
  4. Learn from your mistakes whenever possible.
  5. Remember the old adage, “Mistakes are stepping stones to success.”


Please join me for a 45-minute telegathering to explore the importance of making mistakes. Call Tuesday, April 10 at noon Eastern (11:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. MT, 9:00 a.m. Pacific) 1-985-425-2620 X925 No need to register…just call at that time!

Read an excerpt from Liberating Greatness, the Whole Brain Guide to an Extraordinary Life, the book Hal and I wrote, at

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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