For example, here is some great advice that I didn’t take:
- “Don’t play at that construction site,” said my grandmother when I was about eight. I didn’t listen. I fell from one of the partially built walls and ripped my leg open on some corrugated steel. Whoops!
- “Don’t tease your hair like that – it’s not a hair style; it’s a nest,” said my father of my 1987 hair “style.” I didn’t listen and I have some embarrassing photos that my father likes to show me once in a while in a very I-told-you-so fashion. Whoops!
- “Don’t move to the suburbs,” said my mother when I was about 30. I didn’t listen. I wanted to stab myself in my eyes every day for the last two years of living there. Whoops indeed.
Today, I do not play at construction sites, tease my hair or live in the ‘burbs. But I still make mistakes, and I think I have more empathy and courage because of them.
Mistakes make us human
When we make mistakes, we see the world just a little bit differently, and it makes us more patient and considerate. It’s why, at a certain point in our lives, we all start saying some version of “nobody’s perfect” when faced with someone else’s mistake. We’ve been there. We know. If we led a perfect life void of error, imagine the horrid judgy jerks we’d be.
When we make mistakes, we learn that it’s not the end of the world, and we become a little bit more human. Pre-mistake we’re all a little timid, worried about making that mistake. Keeping ourselves up at night worried that we’ll fail, screw up, be embarrassed. But post-mistake, we often see that it’s not the massive heart attack we thought making a mistake would be.
For example, at a client presentation last year, I was nervous. Instead of covering it up like I normally do, I blurted out: “I’m really nervous and I talk really quickly when I’m nervous but then I talk pretty quickly when I’m not nervous so you probably wouldn’t have noticed expect that I mentioned it.” And then I stood there fully aware of the inner dialogue that had become outer dialogue, and felt silly. But a cool thing happened. People laughed, not so much at me, but with me.
Mistakes make us a tiny bit more human, and we can all connect with that.
James Joyce said "mistakes are the portals for discovery." This is true of self-discovery, science, mathematics, travel and breakthroughs of all sorts. We are often better for our mistakes. And, importantly, we now have yellow sticky notes. How can mistakes be considered bad when they might result in yellow sticky notes? (And, like, medicine and stuff.)
Awesome examples of whoopsie art
Read "Beautiful Oops!" byBarney Saltzberg. It's an awesome book to share with kids. It's a pop-up book that shows how making mistakes in your art can turn into really cool stuff.
And speaking of art, check out this story of an artist that was convinced to let her kid help her draw and the gorgeous results: http://twentytwowords.com/2013/09/03/illustrator-draws-faces-lets-her-4-year-old-draw-the-bodies-ends-up-with-adorably-weird-art/