Whenever I make a big flub, I feel my face flush into a blush. My face and forehead become so warm that my eyeglasses steam over. A knot in the gut tempts me to believe I betrayed myself. I begin to replay the scenario in my mind and rewrite the script from different perspectives.
It isn’t until much later that I remember that the mistake is another teaching moment. As I begin to recover from the embarrassment of the screwup, I look for ways to recoup and hopefully begin all over again. Most of the time, I can soldier onwards and complete the tasks or solve the problems. There are also the dreaded few times when a fail is permanent and all I can do is to emotionally resolve it in my mind.
Failure is a built in aspect of human behavior. We don’t like to fail. We hate to admit failure, even to the people closest to us, and certainly not to the public at large. It is embarrassment about failure and the possible legal repercussions of poor judgement calls that leads politicians and us to attempt to cover our tracks. When a person takes the path of cover-up and deceit, failure has won.
In so much as warm, fuzzy platitudes regarding failures and mistakes can help us recover and realign our strategies, we must not allow them to make us lazy. Sometimes, very simple mistakes or errors in judgement can cause severe injury and death. The driver who decides to glance at her smart-phone might be distracted at exactly the wrong moment. The flight maintenance crew-member who overlooks examining a crucial part of an airliner’s control system could lead to a multiple fatality crash.
Thankfully, the vast majority of us will never make such fatal mistakes. However, I’m guessing that most of us can remember close-calls while driving. Maybe sipping a soft drink or adjusting the vehicle’s sound system distracted our attention for just a moment. The resulting close-call could have been deadly serious. Me paying too close of attention to a conversation while driving on the Bayshore Freeway in San Jose, California caused a lane-change close call with a large semi-truck that I’ll always remember. Thankfully, that was a mistake that taught me an extremely important lesson.
Our professional lives, our creative lives, and our personal lives are interconnected. If we make a mistake in one of our roles, our emotional attitudes in the other aspects can be adversely affected. Committing a major error in one area of life can have a chain-reaction effect on how we perform in other areas of life, at least temporarily. This is one reason why successful people live mindfully.
Although mindfulness isn’t a magic formula that’s guaranteed to prevent failure, mindfulness in living is an effective way to help us avoid making mistakes. Mindfulness also helps us recover more effectively and efficiently when unforeseen errors happen to us. When we mindfully assess our failures we are better able to effectively tweak our efforts. This is an aid to the persistence and morale necessary to carry a project through to successful completion.
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”–Bill Gates
To succeed and to win are what we crave. Writings from the great philosophers remind us that if we are really going to make the best use of our lives is to learn how to fail. Not one person on Earth goes undefeated all the time. It is possible to pick oneself up and dust oneself off after being knocked to the ground after a crushing defeat. This ability can enable us to carry on another day to win again.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Johnny Cash. “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”