You Made a Mistake – Use It To Be Wiser and Smarter

Things happen. You make a mistake. We all do. “Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal,” says Don Shula. Perfection isn’t in our makeup – that’s okay. We all are members in the Oops! Club.

When we talk about being ready for life, many people think this means that we always get things right. We choose wisely. Things work out well.

We know life isn’t like that. We aren’t like that and that is actually the key to our greatness. To be ready for life means we know things will break down, fall apart, melt down and just not work, but our growth and development happens in the learning in those moments. We gather information about how to be better the next time.

Life is done by trial-and-error

I like to tell my audiences that we weren’t born with an owner’s manual – a guidebook that tells us who we are, what we should do and how we should live. Instead, we get the gift of each moment in life as the means to gather information – a kind of trial and error process – to see what does and doesn’t work. Each day, we show up and learn more about ourselves. Each day, we gather more information to determine what we rock at and what we stink at – so we can consider better ideas and options, then to choose those that make the most sense for who we are. In other words, do more of what you rock at and less of what you stink at.

In this process, we sometimes get it right – Woohoo! Celebrate! Sometimes we get it wrong – Woohoo! Celebrate! It is in the mistakes and failures that we actually learn more about ourselves – we gather more information that can help us better understand how to make our next moments better.

A mistake can be a tool of greatness

Maybe that seems like this statement is at odds with itself but it really isn’t. Greatness isn’t a location or an end. It is a mindset and an attitude – a commitment to discover and become one’s best. And because our road to being our best selves isn’t clearly defined, we stumble our way along. Mistakes guide us if we let them.

So, how do we get better at accepting our membership in the Oops! Club?

  • Learn to laugh more. We sometimes think everything matters. That is just a story we tell ourselves. Actually, we decide of what happens, what matters. Sure there are some serious situations in life, but most of the situations that we label as serious just aren’t. We could see them as the way life is and get better at laughing them off.
  • Learn to tune in more. Life is loaded with information, most of which we miss because we don’t tune into our lives. We are so distracted by all of the noise, lights and yack around us that we don’t pay attention to the things in our life. Tune in means noticing your thoughts, feelings and actions and what motivates them. Make time. Turn the electronics off. Close your eyes. Be still. This is how to connect to your information source.
  • Learn to cut others more slack. If we were able to allow others to be more human (because we all make mistakes), perhaps we could allow ourselves to be more human. Cut yourself some slack when things don’t go as planned. Oops. instead, just ask yourself this question: What can I do better next time?

Welcome to the Oops! Club. I am a long-time and proud card-carrying member. This club encourages learning, growing and changing. I like who I become by being part of this club – life grows deeper, stronger and bolder. This is how we access our greatness and learn how to be ready for life. Carry your membership card proudly.


Do You Focus On Failure More Than Success?

I have a question for you – what are you good at? With this blog’s focus on parenting, I could rephrase it to ask, what makes you a good parent?

You know what would be easier questions – what are you NOT good at – and how are you NOT a great parent? See, our world is quick to point out what it thinks is wrong with us. We know the answers to these more than to the earlier questions.

We focus on failure

In fact, this focus on failure is so prevalent that it now frames much of how we think. In the workplace, the annual review rarely starts with your successes – it jumps to your weaknesses and failures. At home, if you were to track what you say to your kids for just one day, your would see that most of it would likely be critical or corrective. We are just in the mindset that we are here to notice and fix our and their weaknesses and failures – and that we do others in our lives a great service when we point these out to them.

So here’s the problem. This creates a pretty critical vocabulary in our conversation with ourselves and others. Since what we focus on grows, the more we tune in to what isn’t right, the more we see what isn’t right and we miss what is right. We miss the opportunities to applaud successes, encourage effort, support discovery and inspire engagement. We are cheap with praise – with ourselves and with others.

Don’t try this but it makes my point

Let me share a workplace story that has application everywhere. In one of my roles during my career, I headed up an education department for a great company. My department took off – it took on great challenges, built sound education and changed many employees. Not once in the couple of years it took to do all this did my manager ever say “Thank you,” “Good job,” or “Nice going.” Frustrated, I delivered what could only be known as a career limiting move, when I said to my manager (okay – I don’t recommend this), “I think you have only 5 thank yous left in you before you die and you are afraid to waste one on me….” Well, I didn’t lose my job, but I did hear a little about respect. I earned that one.

But the meaning was that it didn’t occur to my manager to notice our successes – his mindset was that if things are working fine, that is how they should be – and no comment is necessary; he believed he should only watch for failures and challenges. With this thinking, he missed the successes – the things that we should always do more of. Remember this: what gets noticed and applauded, gets repeated.

Watch for successes

So, what are you great at and how are you a great parent? And since we are talking about this, how are you helping your kids focus on what they are great at, instead of regularly reminding them of what isn’t quite right about them?

Each of us is a work in process; we learn as we go. That learning should include learning about our successes, not just our failures. Our constant focus on failures and fixing weaknesses becomes the negative yack we play in our heads, and someday, it becomes the way our kids parent their kids – fix, correct, improve, find the negative, find the faults. Blah, blah, blah. Who can blame our kids for not listening to us if this is the primary communication they get from us?

This doesn’t mean only give your kids praise – you know, the “every kid gets a trophy” syndrome. It does however remind us that life is about learning – building on the successes AND learning from the failures. Both teach us about us and our kids. We should regularly notice and applaud true and legitimate successes with the same energy we focus on correcting weaknesses. This will set up both you and your kids to be able to answer the question, “What am I really good at?” And with that information, you’ll both know how to be ready for life.

Success and Failure, a Practical Discussion with Seymour Segnit RFL13

A Practical Conversation About Success and Failure – Episode Overview

Seymour Segnit on Success and FailureIn this episode we connect with the founder of thingCharger and clever entrepreneur, Seymour Segnit. He candidly shares his thoughts on moving on from challenges and failures and rallying around successes. His wisdom is for parents as well as the business community.

Attention and Intention

In this episode our attention is on how to notice the successes and failures in our lives, and our intention is that we learn to be realistic in using both our successes and failures to make better decisions – everywhere.

Meet our Guest – Seymour Segnit

A serial entrepreneur who has learned to spot good ideas, build from failures and keep perspective, Seymour Segnit is a realist. He knows his abilities, having been a peak potential trainer; he knows how to look at today’s world for needs and opportunities to add value and make a difference in areas that need what he does best. His latest venture is the creation of thingCharger, a new device charger that eliminates the problem of a tangle of cords and wires. It became the all-time #1 crowdfunded mobile accessory. Click on his links to see thingCharger and some of Seymour’s others great ideas.

Guest Links:

Segnit 1

Episode’s Key Takeaways:

Successes are events to build on. Celebrate them and do more with them.

Help your kids see the areas they excel in and by connecting what they are great at to places in their world, they see successes happen. According to the wisdom of Tom Morris (a future podcast guest) we should be both noble (aware that we are capable of great things) and humble (aware that others are too). So, success is a moment where it all comes together and we use it to learn how to build more events like these. Spending all our time celebrating our successes will quickly help us lose our edge. Celebrate and build.

Failures are events to learn from.

Most people avoid failure; in fact, our culture trains us to fear it and avoid it. However, talking to most of the successful people over hundreds of years, we see that what was different for them was their view of failure. Failure is a learning event, not to be feared, but to be used to grow. This doesn’t mean we shrug it off, it means we pay greater attention to the failure to build a way to be better because of it. Great entrepreneurs never fear failure – they look at it as the information they needed to move more wisely with the next decision. Learn from and grow.

Some question for parents:

  1. How do you help your kids look at and use their successes?
  2. How can you help your kids discover what they are good at to help them identify the areas that need what they do best, to help them learn how to be more successful?
  3. How do you help your kids look at and use their failures?
  4. How do you allow your kids to fail and not always rush in and make things right?
  5. How do you talk about failures – yours, others and theirs – to help them see how to grow from them and not to be afraid of them?

Stop and Notice Challenge

Each week we ask you to stop and notice – to develop your skill of tuning in to you and your world. This week’s stop and notice challenge is:

  1.    Stop and Notice a recent failure. Ask yourself these questions.
    •    What caused it – what was my role in it?
    •    What did it teach me?
    •     What will I be sure to do better next time?
  1.    Stop and notice a recent success. This is important because we generally spend time noticing our failures and not our successes. When you notice a success, ask yourself the following questions:
    •    What caused it – what was my role in it?
    •    What did it teach me?
    •     How can I build on it for the next time?

Life just provides learning – from both successes and failures. Stop and notice both and you will make life your live classroom, ready to teach you all sorts of things you need to be ready for life.

Suggested Resource

Everyday Blessings – The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and John Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Blessings Book - A Success and Failure ResourceThis is my favorite book on mindful parenting, well in addition to the Conscious Parent by Shifali Tsbary. Mindful Parenting brings awareness to the moments of our parenting – of learning to show up to the successes and failures of life – always watching, learning, growing and connecting with our kids. In try Kabat-Zinn form, the book is large but it truly is not meant to be read all at once. Find the sections that appeal most to you – and work from there. They address every aspect of mindfulness from its basic understanding, to becoming self-aware, to using that awareness to show up differently to your kids. This book stays on my desk to check in on their thinking as life sends me things to deal with.

Share it with someone. We all get better when we learn how to help each other become the best parents we can be.