The Value of Mistakes

Reflecting back to as recently as a few hours ago, to the equivalent of “that email or message I wrote that could’ve been better”, I feel embarrassed. That feeling alone doesn’t have much particular value; it will do nothing but eat you alive if you let it. However, if you analyze it, treating it like a well-placed sticky note and ask why you feel that way, you can improve (“Was I overeager? Did I express myself poorly?”) and be more conscious next time.

If you really can’t get a mistake out of your head, acknowledge it (“This was not my best work”). And finally, say sorry — you’ve messed up, but hopefully you’ve learned from it.

A favourite quote, by Bob Hoover, a famous test pilot, goes something like this: Bob had been flying back from an airshow, when both the engines on his plane died. Later, after an emergency landing, he inspected the plane and discovered it had been loaded with the wrong kind of fuel. He returned to the tarmac and approached the (now mortified) person who had incorrectly fuelled the plane, and said:

There isn’t a man alive who hasn’t made a mistake. But I’m positive you’ll never make this mistake again. That’s why I want to make sure that you’re the only one to refuel my plane tomorrow. I won’t let anyone else on the field touch it.

Onward.

 
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