Last Sunday I dropped my daughter off at a culinary camp in Chicago—a four hour drive from Indianapolis.After arriving in Chicago, we spent 3 hours touristing Michigan Ave and Navy Pier in 90 degree heat before arriving at her camp dorm downtown. The counselor scanned her list and shook her head:“Your daughter’s name is not on our list.” These were not the words we wanted to hear after a very long day.While speaking on the phone to the director, she repeated some solutions out loud to us, one being “there’s one empty bed in the boy’s room” (Pah! Over my dead body!).After about 15 minutes of fraught negotiations, my daughter finally secured a bed.Later I spoke to the director myself, who apologized profusely.He ‘fessed up to his mistake, and did an excellent job of soothing our frayed nerves. My daughter and I were both still a bit rattled, and as she and I said goodbye, she gave me the look that said, you’re leaving me here? I pulled myself together and said, “Mistakes happen angel.Part of life. He’s entitled to make them. So are you.”
Most of us go out of our way to avoid mistakes, but since they are inevitable, I think it’s high time we befriend them. I began wondering, what would this entail?Here are some ideas:
1)See them as normal as your successes, rather than an inconvenience. What we usually do when a mistake happens is to judge it as bad, like I did: We say, “This isn’t supposed to be happening!” Because we didn’t plan it, so much of our mental energy is spent resisting what is, rather than actually accepting it.What is possible when we lean into the mistake and befriend it? I believe it will positively affect the results.My favorite Eckhart Tolle phrase is, “Live each moment as if you had invited it.”By doing that—and I’m not saying it’s always easy—it allows for easier problem solving and resolution. It makes the bumpy ride much smoother.
2)Let go of judging others for their mistakes.The by-product of this doozy is that you will also stop judging yourself for them.Mistakes are accidents, caused by human error.Maybe I was tired, stressed, overwhelmed, feeling insecure, preoccupied, or given bad information. I don’t know a soul who can escape such humanness, yet we often berate each other (and ourselves) for it.My favorite recent example is Christina Aguilera “botching” the national anthem at the Super Bowl.Critics said, “She should have known better, she’s a professional!” The virulence of all the criticism baffled me.I, on the other hand, felt liberated by her mistake, thinking, Oh, she’s just like me—makes mistakes just like me, when I least want them to happen.On top of that, she recovered beautifully which leads me to #3:
3)Bloom, rather than wither from the mistake.I have benefitted the most by witnessing people who treat their own mistakes with grace rather than shame.As a result, I aim to optfor grace when I blow it.For example, every once in awhile I start a webinar and have technical problems beyond my control, and have to send all new meeting information. I know this ruffles participants’ feathers to the extreme. (They board the This isn’t supposed to be happening!”bus).Instead of feeling responsible and showing it, which makes everyone uncomfortable, I will say, “Oh what an inconvenience! Well you know what they say:Life is curly, stop trying to straighten it out.”Everyone laughs and we get on with it.It’s an irresistible invitation to remember our shared humanity.
4)See mistakes for the rich goldmines of information that they are.Every mistake I make gives me the opportunity to learn.In fact, during training, when someone points out something I don’t know, I will say, “Thank you for making me smarter.”That person just gave me a gift.Taking the camp example, I’m hopeful that in the future, the director will “make his list and check it twice” before the beginning of each new session.With regard to Christina Aguilera, the last thing I want is for that fireball to stop singing because she messed up those lyrics. Maybe she will get more rest next time, or do relaxation exercises ahead of time. But even if she doesn’t, and she flubs it again, I will be by her side, honoring her right, our shared right, to be human.