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My Biggest Mistakes

When we think of our biggest mistakes we rarely smile.  I do.  I look back and think of the many, many things I’ve done in my life that didn’t end up as well as I had hoped for and I think to myself what a truly rich life I’ve lived thus far and how much I’ve grown, mostly as a result of those missteps.  I wasn’t always inclined this way, but over the years I’ve learned.  Like many, I used to either try to pull the rug over my mistakes or wallow in self-pity when reflecting upon the prices that I’ve paid because of them.  Neither of these paths served me very well.

We live in a world that discourages honest reflection about our mistakes.  In the public world, our leaders not only don’t consider their mistakes, they mostly deny having made any.  This doesn’t make them bad people, but instead reflects upon our society and its general misunderstanding of, and intolerance for imperfection.  To me, being human means being imperfect.  None of us are born with perfect knowledge, and this necessarily means that a good deal of our efforts will lead to poor outcomes.  Michael Jordan famously said that no one in NBA history missed more shots than him.  Even our best miss the mark a large percentage, if not a majority of the time.  Show me a person who hasn’t made many mistakes and I’ll tell you that is a person who is either dishonest or hasn’t been a person of action, or both.  I’ll also tell you that individual is a person who has learned very little in life.

 A while ago I awoke from sleep in the early morning with my thoughts focused upon the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my life and the lessons that I learned from them.  I went straight to my computer to write them down so that I’d never forget them and so I could share them with my children to teach them both from my own lessons, as well as the important lesson that no one is perfect (I’m guessing they already knew that about me), and that life’s most painful experiences can and should be our best teachers.  When I meet people today I frequently inquire about their biggest mistakes, in life or in business.  I find that how someone answers that question says far more than when they recount their successes.

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