Mistakes

Kim TanzerUncategorized

“It seems that the necessary thing to do is not to fear mistakes, to plunge in, to do the best that one can, hoping to learn enough from blunders to correct them eventually.
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– Abraham Maslow

As far back as I can remember, I feared, no was terrified of making mistakes.  My earliest memory is of breaking a light bulb when I was 3 or 4 and perhaps I caught one of my parents in a bad space but I thought the world had ended because of the reaction.  This small event loomed large in my 3 year old psyche and even though broken glass seems fairly insignificant, blown out reactions begin to imprint and groove into memory like ski tracks.

The seemingly insignificant, over time, becomes significant and can change our perceptions which lead to what actions we do, or do not take.   For me, that breaking of the light bulb was the first of many incidents followed by reactions that taught me to fear mistakes rather than learn from them.

I feel like I spent a lot of years in a straightjacket.  Either I did things I knew I could do well or I did not even try.  Life is about trying and struggling and succeeding and failing and always learning.  Life is not about rigidity and perfection and holding in the breath so to speak.  Life is, well, messy.

I remember seeing a u tube of a little boy, maybe 4 years old who wanted to pour his own milk and ended up spilling the entire jug of milk on the floor.  His mum, instead of getting angry and exasperated, calmly talked to him and not only cleaned the milk up with him but the two of them created shapes on the floor using the milk–a bit extreme perhaps– but I was struck by her out of the box thinking and her calm response to the whole situation.

And sure, this is only spilled milk, but what if we all experienced mistakes as opportunity? What if we were taught not to fear mistakes but to learn from them and maybe even get creative with them?  In my experience most people just self flagellate or become paralyzed and end up going into that same hole again and again.

What if we were invited to fail, as one of my friend’s professors, suggested to the class.  Then what?

Ceramic artist Beatrice Wood worked on a potter’s wheel every day until she was 103. Wood said “My life is full of mistakes. They’re like pebbles that make a good road.”