A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

01 July 2010

Life Lessons from the Movies, episode 3

I have a soft spot in my head for Disney movies, as most of you know. Today's source of inspiration is not, I admit, one of their better efforts, but does offer a valuable message for personal and professional development. The movie is Meet the Robinsons, and the lesson is that it's OK to get things wrong.

In the movie, the protagonist is very confused when the people around him enthusiastically praise him for failing. "You failed! That's GREAT!" I don't know about you, but I don't have that experience very often. Usually when I mess up, no cheering occurs. Interestingly enough, though, it's also pretty rare for other people to criticize or scold me for it. What about you? When you fail, or make a mistake, do you get a lot of grief from anyone else? There's only one person who punishes me relentlessly for the errors I make in my life. She looks back at me from every mirror.

Two simple lessons I wish I had learned by the time I was ten are only just now starting to sink in. Consider them my gift to you if you are younger than I am, and know they are easier to put into words than they are to install in your psyche.

Lesson one: Mistakes are essential! Getting it wrong is how we learn. Theodore Roosevelt said, "the man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything." When we let ourselves get bound up in the fear of failure, we avoid trying new things. We hide in our comfort zone and miss out on a world of opportunities. Go ahead and explore something unfamiliar, and don't be afraid of failure. Every experiment is a success as long as you get data.

Lesson two: Lighten up! If making a mistake is a learning opportunity worthy of celebration, don't waste energy feeling bad about it or beating yourself up. I find it difficult to let go and move beyond my mistakes, but when I am able to do it, it's the most liberating feeling I've ever had. When you mess up, take any needed corrective action quickly, learn the lesson, and let go of the negative feelings as soon as you can. Remember that spaced repetition can work for you as well as against you. Repeat the parts of the lesson you want to remember instead of letting negative messages pollute your head.

They say we teach what we most need to learn. Perhaps you have enjoyed some benefit from reading this, and if not, you are willing to indulge me as I teach something I'm working to learn for myself.

Made any fabulous mistakes lately? I'd love to hear about it.

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