I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being–forgive me–rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger. | Albus Dumbledore
As we grow older, and hopefully smarter and wiser, our mistakes generally become bigger. We may make fewer mistakes but the stakes are generally much higher than they used to be. That’s part of the natural growth process. Sometimes, this process is accelerated – as in the case with young entrepreneurs who’ve created successful companies and find themselves making huge mistakes – and sometimes, it happens slowly. But, if you’re learning, growing and doing more, it generally happens nevertheless. Bad judgment -> mistakes -> experience -> good judgment.
The response when we make such mistakes should not be to attempt to avoid them. Instead, it should be to check if our processes are better today than they were yesterday. Here are a couple of examples –
Example 1 (good) – when I went on school trips as a kid, a loss of possessions was guaranteed. I’ve lost many clothes and shoes on these trips. Over time, I’ve learnt that I’m pretty careful with others’ possessions but tend to be careless with my own. I’ve also learnt to be aware of this and modify my processes. So, today, as I finished up a camping trip, I actually double checked our tent to make sure I didn’t leave anything behind.
Does this mean I’m going to stop losing stuff? Absolutely not. I misplaced a water bottle just a week ago, after all. But, the processes are getting better and I hope to lose less stuff in the future.
Example 2 (not good) – I bought a $25 extra protective sole for my shoe last weekend and promptly threw the receipt and the box. It seemed to work fine at the store but the daily reality was that it wasn’t right. And, unfortunately, I can’t return it without a receipt or a box. That’s $25 I will never see again. This, however, is a mistake that I kicked myself for – in my ongoing attempts to keep clutter out of life, I’ve disposed off receipts too quickly in the past. And, yet, I haven’t quite learnt – a perfect example of a bad process. A moment’s thought made me realize that I could easily have taken a quick photo on my phone and then disposed the receipt.
Lesson hopefully learnt and process hopefully improved.
The mistakes will keep coming and will continue to get bigger. But, the goal with examining processes is to make sure we make newer, better mistakes and learn from them. With every mistake, we can get better. Like all good things in life, the choice is ours.