You cannot learn much if you don’t make some mistakes: A few of my best “learning…

While none of us likes to mess up or fail, failure is essential to growth and learning.  In addition, some of the best wisdom I have gained came after experiencing the pain of some of the biggest failures I have ever had.  You may be reading this and think that I am in need of therapy, but hang with me here because I think you will agree by the time I get to the end of this post.

I did a simple Google search of “the value of failure” and the search turned up over 309 million responses from sources like Duke University, Minnesota Public RadioThe Chronicle of Higher Education, Harvard Business Review and many others.  Having gained a feeling of comfort that I am not the only one who feels this way  we will move forward with my exposure of some of my more classic “screw ups”.

During my senior year in high school I pursued and obtained an appointment to the United States Naval Academy.  with mom_dad at annapolis

Here I was, a naïve 18 year old from the Midwest heading to one of the most prestigious and challenging schools in the land and I was nowhere close to being prepared for what I was about to experience.  My emotional intelligence was very low at that time and I had spent very little time away from home on my own at that point in my life.  I panicked early during Plebe Summer and bailed on the appointment before the end of the summer.  While the long lasting effects of this have been limited, it did teach me very clearly that my children would need to have more experiences on their own before they headed off to college.  I remember well dropping each of them off at a week-long Boy Scout training called Brownsea, a youth leadership development program, where they were either the only representative from their troop, or one of just 2 or 3.


Neither one of the were excited about the opportunity when it occurred, but I suspect it helped them mature and grow in ways I never experienced by that point of my life.

Another classic faux pas occurred while I was working in the manufacturing world.  Our company was in the midst of an economic downturn in the mid 1980’s and the rumor mill was rampant about who the “next one to go” would be.  Having a big mouth, I took the time to go by and wish one of the victims well on her departure from the firm.  I knew I had made a mistake when she looked back at me and replied, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”  Less than 10 minutes later I had a less than pleasant visit from her supervisor telling me that because of my big mouth they would have to keep her with the firm and that I need to keep my yap shut.  I felt about  2 inches tall at that point, but I  have never forgotten the value of keeping information to myself and also verifying what is true and what is rumor before I open that cavernous mouth I have.

I could share even more experiences, but I think by now you are getting the point.  One of the biggest challenges I have had to balance as an adult is knowing how much to let our sons mess up versus protecting them from such issues.  We have been blessed by the fact that their mistakes have been few and far between and they have  a health sense of humility and respect.  Also, neither has the big mouth their father had, and sometimes still has. 

big mouth

I have been fortunate  to have some powerful learning experiences during my life.  Even more so, none of my mistakes have been severe enough, at least thus far, to be life altering.

Those who don’t mistakes are not taking enough chances.

Also, those who do not make mistakes are not learning and gaining wisdom.

Scars are sometimes visible, but other scars can only be seen or learned of through dialogue and sharing.

If you are not making any mistakes, keep trying.

You will be glad you did.