Originally published in November issue of American International Karate Institute’s monthly newsletter.
Here at the Credit Union Geek, I never make mistakes.
We live in a society which looks down upon those who make mistakes, as if it is something to be shamed. Why? Every great discovery was done after many attempts, all failing in some fashion. Medical treatments, sports achievements, technical breakthroughs, and any other “first” was done following, well, can you guess? A mistake, that’s what. And probably many of them. Let’s talk Thomas Edison. He’s the guy who discovered a workable method of producing electric light. In other words: flip a light switch and thank Edison. That brilliant fellow came up with the right idea one day and, bam, light! Well, that’s only partially true. He came up with 3,000 ideas. Two of them proved noteworthy, meaning, he was wrong 2,998 times.
When was the last time you got something wrong 2,998 times? Did you keep trying? Famously, Edison claimed, “You only fail when you quit.”
If being wrong is so shameful, would you risk it? What would people say?
Over the years, great films have highlighted the journey from amateur to champion. Call it the Rocky montage. Or the Karate Kid segment (the 80s excelled at this piece of film history). In the movie, we spend 5 minutes documenting the grueling training and challenges our protagonist encounters. Then, just as they collapse in exhaustion, we see a spark of understanding. Their kick lands. Their punches flow. The light bulb works. Now, it’s off to defeat the Huns!
As a cinematic element, they’re awesome. Tell me your run doesn’t get a boost from hearing Rocky Balboa get ready for his fight against Apollo. But they create an unrealistic perception of progress. It’s hard to grasp the sheer time and effort compressed into those scenes. Olympic athletes train for hours a day, every day, for decades, to even be in the running for competition. As a long-term martial artist, I can say that Daniel-san did not stand a chance at the tournament. He didn’t fail enough to succeed.
It’s not only in competition or inventing where this applies. Apple released iOS 8 in September. It wasn’t perfect. So they released iOS 8.0.1 a few days later. It was even less perfect. The next day, they released 8.0.2. Much better. For some reason, with iOS 8, they also removed the beloved Camera Roll feature, replacing it with a Recently Added folder. It was a nightmare trying to explain how that worked to my parents…”Yes, those are still your phone’s pictures. No, just because they disappeared doesn’t mean they are deleted or gone. It just doesn’t show them there anymore. Yes, you can find them in the big list on the Photos tab.” So, with iOS 8.1, they admitted their mistake and restored Camera Roll. Thank you!
Acknowledging your imperfections and addressing them is a great way to move forward. Never being wrong means you 1) don’t take risks of any kind and 2) won’t achieve anything of significance. My favorite TED talk (On Being Wrong, Kathryn Schulz) delves into this very issue. How sure are you of being right? What about once you’re shown you are wrong? That’s the craziness of being wrong. When we are wrong, we think we are right until shown otherwise. Go watch the TED talk.
In your personal and professional life, aim for getting it wrong. Then accept it, address the issues, and try to get it wrong again. You may just invent the phonograph or telephone, discover penicillin, or grow your member engagement!