Mistakes Aren’t Fatal (unless you build helicopters)


A few weekends ago, my seven-year-old grandson and I built a helicopter
Not a real one; it was just Legos. I won’t bemoan the loss of imagination in the new versions of the blocks – where your job is no longer to create something of your own design but rather figure out what Legos wants you to do. However, as a result, our task was to assiduously follow detailed, piece-by-piece instructions if we had Legosany hope to getting to a finished product.

Along the way, my young builder got a few things wrong. Sometimes that meant backing up several steps to get back to the failure before we could move ahead. Sensing his frustration and temptation to blame the instructions (or me!), I encouraged him to see mistakes as normal, even necessary to the process of learning. It’s not the mistake, I told him; it’s what you do after the mistake that matters. Sure enough, after a few more misplaced blocks, he eased into this idea of embracing mistakes, laughed at himself, and even found some patterns to the mistakes, which he quickly corrected.

We all hate making mistakes (and certainly if you keep making them, someone else will hate it, too!), Learning does not come from doing things right repeatedly; it comes from stretching yourself enough to make some mistakes. That points us to where we need to learn.

We did finish the helicopter. I made a few mistakes myself, notably when I put a black block in a place the instructions called for a blue block (I did not think the difference in colors in the instructions was very clear).

My grandson pointed it out to me.

“Pops, trust me. That’s blue, not black. I know – I have super-human sharp vision.”

Gotta love ’em.

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About paulheagen

I am an executive coach, advisor and confidant who helps leaders better understand, refresh or redirect their purpose in their business and personal lives. Over my 35-year career as a corporate executive, communications consultant and trusted advisor, I have guided executives through “defining moments” – those unique times when the decisions they make, the words they speak, and the qualities they exhibit can influence not only the destiny of their organization but also their own lives and careers. When it comes to my clients and my life work, I am ferociously passionate and restlessly inquisitive about uncovering the unique dreams, vision and purpose that lead to exceptional leadership.
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