kendi and bryan’s dream report: week nine

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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.)

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  1. Cindy

    I needed to read this today. I’ve been having one of those weeks where I feel like just quitting because I haven’t been doing things the way I envisioned and so I feel like a failure and then why not just quit. One of those kinds of weeks. But now, I feel just a little bit inspired to reevaluate my thinking and just pick up and carry on. Thanks for the link too. Going to read that next.

  2. Jen

    I love this Kendi! It is so true, in small business but also in life. And that extra credit article is great!

  3. Cathy

    Great post! I’m also a textbook perfectionist and struggle with giving myself permission to fail and be human. I think I’ve slowly improved over time (after hearing the message in countless shapes and forms), but there’s still a long way to go.

    And thanks for sharing that extra link. Sometimes I want to do something dramatic, but then wimp out at the last minute. I need the extra encouragement.

    Keep it up and you’ll get there!

  4. Piper

    I so needed this post Kendi!! I swear, I’m completely a textbook perfectionist and if I can’t do something right or completely 100% know how to do something than I tend to not do anything at all!! It’s always a struggle for me. But it’s so true – you can’t learn something unless you try and mistakes are just a way of learning. Thanks for the reminder!! Keep on plugging along – you guys are doing great!

  5. kelsey

    Yeah, let’s do it. Lately I am trying to be thankful — actually thankful — for making mistakes that I can learn from. It’s a total shift in thinking for me, but the perspective is so refreshing that I can strive for excellence rather than trying to be perfect.

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