Try, Try Again
I remember this poster from my elementary school so very clearly. Hanging oh-so-smugly in the hallway, I would pass it everyday on my way back from lunch. There in all of it’s printed glory with a man on a tight rope walking across some large canyon at the exact time of the setting of the sun, the poster declared “There are no mistakes. Only learning experiences!” And for some reason, this poster really got to me.
I was 11 years old. I should have either ignored that poster like every other child in the school or I should have been impressed by the tight rope walker. Instead, it frustrated me. As I didn’t want to make mistakes (I’ve always been this pompous), so how was I ever going to have experiences if that was the only way?
I didn’t understand at the time that making a mistake wasn’t the only way to gain experience. In fact in that moment, without a mistake being made I was having an experience. I was gaining knowledge and possibly slight bitterness that I would carry with me for the next 15 years. But at the time, I was just focused on the mistakes to be made. I was terrified that in order to have any wisdom, any experience worth having, or even the chance to walk on a tight rope across the Sahara Desert at sunset, I would have to make mistakes. This thought seemed unbearable. I was a perfectionist who was doomed to a life of boredom.
The deal is, I’m still a perfectionist. If I can’t do something all the way, I don’t do it at all. Until one day I realized that I can do most things all the way. In fact, I can do most things all the way until they are done and then realize that I did it all wrong. Or that I made a wrong turn at the beginning or that my mistake will never be right, not matter how hard I try to look at it or change it or cover it up.
This is what owning a small business is. It’s making a mistake over and again until you get it right. Seldom do we as business owners get it right the first try. But we try and try again. Our logo isn’t quite right. Try again. Our website isn’t ready yet. Try again. We didn’t handle a client the way we envisioned we would. Try again.
A wise person (cough, Jess, cough) once told me that the only way to fail is to quit. We’ll I’m not keen on failing and I’m certainly not going to quit. And if experience is what I need to build my business and experience is only gained by me actually doing it, mistakes or not, then I will do it.
Let’s make better mistakes tomorrow. No really, let’s do it.
(Extra credit: Read this article and tell me you aren’t inspired to go and make the worst mistake you can.)