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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Does Making a Mistake Mean You're Out of Your Comfort Zone?



When babies reach about 11-13 months of age they begin to walk. Tentatively at first, then more securely, and finally, of course, they walk perfectly, unless there is a physiological or neurological challenge not attributable to their skills. At the beginning, a parent is typically there to help the child, encourage the child, and above all, to watch out for the child's safety.

When pilots learn how to fly, they may practice in simulators in order to be able to gain expertise before actually being up in the air. In the early stages, and prior to earning their license, an instructor accompanies them in their first forays up into the skies, in order to remind the student pilot of procedures, to help in difficult maneuvers, to encourage, and again, to watch out for the student's safety.

When we learn how to write we painstakingly trace shapes with clumsy fingers until at last we manage the skill and progress from pencil to pen ... to this day I remember the pride that overwhelmed me on that day when I was seven when I was allowed to write with a pen!

When we learn how to dance salsa, when we fall in love, when we learn how to make bread, when we speak in public, when we learn how to play football, the violin, or paint with oils, we will always first make some kind of mistake. It's part of the learning process, isn't it?

So why do we believe we should not make mistakes later on in life when we do other things? Admittedly, by now we may be adults, we may even be in mid-life or old age, but since there are always things we are doing for the first time, it follows that we'll make some mistakes in the process of learning them. Is our fear of making a mistake mainly based on what others might think? Or on how we look, making such a mistake at our age? Is it based on maintaining an image - even if just in our own eyes, that we have nothing left to learn? Even the most image-conscious would agree with me that such a thought is just plain silly.

So what's it all about? Could it be our ego? Our comfort zone? That when we make mistakes we feel insecure, as opposed to how we feel when we tread on our well-known and by now - deeply-trodden - path? And yet, we all know that leaving the comfort zone is where and when we begin to grow. We left the safety of crawling on our hands and knees to walk. And so we grew. We left the safety of mother's arms to go to kindergarten. And so we grew.

Charles Kettering, inventor, engineer, and businessman, as well as head of research at General Motors for well over 20 years, said: the only time you mustn't fail is the last time you try. In other words, you need to keep on trying, until you get it right. You need to have an attitude of faith; of willingness to keep on trying, over and over, until you get it right.

Let's dare make mistakes and rejoice in their teaching rather than sinking in the thought of failure. Failure is never failure unless you don't get back up. Just as the baby who has fallen back on the floor, grins up disarmingly - never once suspecting that once it's older such a fall, figuratively speaking, would make it feel awful - and gets right back up on its feet to try again. Over and over. Until he's got it right. And then, of course, he starts to run. Does he care how he looks? No! Does he care what others think? No! Is he proud of his accomplishment? Yes!

Let's dare make mistakes and learn what our infant selves knew intuitively: trying over and over again makes perfect. And then, let's run!
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