The importance of making mistakes


Never, ever be afraid of making mistakes.  That fear will hold you back from learning, developing and shaping a more well-rounded version of you.  The bottom line is if we never fail then we never learn.  Going out on a limb and taking the risk of making a mistake is the only way we can learn, both personally and professionally.  If we’re too afraid to take a risk then we’ll never know, we’ll never learn and we’ll never grow.

I’ve make plenty of mistakes in my life.  At least I like to think I learned from them and that those mistakes have shaped the person I am today.  None of them were ever catastrophic – that is to say no one died from anything I ever did!  Although some were disasters at the time and the odd one caused people inconvenience or were life-changing in some way for me.

I’d like to share some of my mistakes, peeling back another layer of the onion that makes me, in fact makes us all, human….

Lesson learned: gerbil’s are heinous creatures and sometimes little white lies are OK

A friend at school wanted a gerbil, her parents said no, she got one anyway and used to keep it in a little play house at the end of the garden (where she obviously thought her parents never went for some reason).  She used to bring it to school in the day time and hide it up the sleeve of her parker coat.  One day her parents found out about it and she had to get rid of it so I offered to take it in.  Needless to say my mum was not too impressed but I tried to look after it as best I could.  Every single time without fail I went near it, it sank it’s razor sharp teeth into me and drew some serious blood.  It obviously preferred the warm inner coat arm of my friend to my company.  In the end when it came to cleaning out time I donned a pair of my dad’s industrial gloves so the little blighter couldn’t savage me.

Luckily for me, but unluckily for it, the poor gerbil only lasted a couple of weeks before going to the gerbil graveyard in the sky and I found it one morning, curled up and cold.  I was sad and couldn’t face telling my friend what had happened.  So, I gave it a good Catholic burial in an unmarked grave (so as not to draw attention) down the bottom of my mum and dad’s street and continued to lie to my friend every single day for many months so as not to hurt her feelings.  One day she stopped asking how the gerbil was.  I was home free.

Lesson learned: boys can be mean but vandalism isn’t the answer

As a 14 year old tomboy with short hair, a flat chest and gap teeth who was often mistaken for a boy I was somewhat taken aback, yet delighted, when my then crush asked me out.  We were part of a larger gang of friends who always did everything together, so it was perfectly natural just to carry on messing about on rope swings, climbing trees and trying to form a band (I was lead singer cos I was the only girl), but doing it under the guise of someone’s “girlfriend”.

I found out after a few months that he kept “cheating” on me with a girl called Jane (she was a proper girl with long hair and everything in the right place).  You have to bear in mind that cheating when I was 14 probably meant taking another girl to a roller disco at Wigan Pier, nonetheless, it cut like a knife.  He dumped me seven times, yes, seven and every single time I forgave him when he said he wanted me to be his girlfriend again.  The eighth time I grew a pair and said no, having developed another crush on a long curly haired rocker who could play the guitar and who’s mum and dad had a massive house on the grounds of a golf course.  Problem was he was so shy he wouldn’t even look at me and the rest of the gang used to tease him remorselessly about me.

To get back at now ex-boyfriend and his pretty ‘bit on the side’ I got hold of a can of spray paint from my dad’s shed and emblazoned a derelict factory wall near where we all used to hang around with a huge love heart containing the name of my latest object of affection.  It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out who’d done it, but oddly no one ever said anything to me about it.  Still, graffiti is wrong and I’d have got a clip round the ear if my parents had found out.

About 20 years later I bumped into crush No.2 in the local town, looking every inch just like a normal person, no longer the 14 year old rock god he used to be.  We chatted amicably for a few minutes and just as we were saying bye he called back “I used to fancy you, you know, but I was too shy to ask you out because everyone teased me all the time”!  You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Lesson learned: if you’re not sure what that cable does don’t pull it out but if you make a mistake hold your hand up

I trained as an IT Support Technician in my early 20’s and was particularly interested in pulling broken things apart and getting them to work.  The server room was like some kind of magical grotto with flashing lights and complicated spaghetti’s of cables everywhere.  I quickly learned how to diagnose PC’s problems where the network was the issue and cabling the culprit, which included the ability to associate numbers in the racking with numbers in the flooring ports and replacing cables to resolve issues.  Problem was, the server room looked like a spaghetti factory that someone had bombed recently and the numbers on the patch panels never matched the flooring ports so it was always a bit hit and miss as to whether you pulled the right cable or not.

I decided one day, during office opening hours, that I would tidy the server room up – it was used as a dumping ground and as the only female in the department none of the lads cared less.  With a touch of the OCD about me I set about having a good clear out.  I wasn’t completely daft – I realised that I shouldn’t go pulling out cables willy-nilly, particularly when about 400 people were working.  However, I had a stroke of the genius about me when I decided to at least remove the cables that didn’t look like they went anywhere or were left dangling.  I was using my initiative, I was increasingly pleased with how the room started to shape up.

Now we’d very recently spent a weekend as a team installing a new telephone system and this new-fangled system routed itself through the network and therefore the servers.  I continued about my tidification and left a couple of hours later with a warm glow, issuing mild threats to my colleagues to keep it tidy in future.  Unfortunately I’d pulled what I thought was ‘dangler’ and had taken the entire phone system down, switchboard and all.  I shot back in the server room like a rat up a drainpipe and replaced the one cable I’d been unsure of pulling the plug on.  The next thing I did was walk right up to the entire IT team including the Director and tell them what I’d done – I’d made a mistake.  Eyes rolled, a valuable lesson was learned, I was the butt of team jokes for a few weeks, but nothing bad happened.  The one thing I have always done is admit when I’ve made a mistake, don’t look to blame someone else, don’t keep quiet, say something and honesty really is the best policy.

I’m not ashamed to say that my heart absolutely rules my head and as such the majority of decisions I make in life are with my heart – choosing to grow old with PS4 man or buying our current home for example (incidentally, both resounding successes).   The mistakes I tend to make these days happen at the odd times where my head has ruled and on reflection it makes me realise more than ever that it’s important to trust your instincts, follow your heart and you won’t go far wrong.  However, if you do make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up, pick yourself up instead, listen to what your heart is saying and follow it.  

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