Most of us don’t like to make mistakes. It feels lousy, it wastes our time, it frustrates us. Yet many mistakes are opportunities in disguise. If you are mentally flexible and can look at things from different perspectives, you may have a Eureka moment. What may appear as a mistake because it did not provide the solution you were looking for, can turn out to be a fabulous bonanza.
Take a look at these extraordinary people and how they turned their mistakes around to achieve success.
Andrew Mason is the CEO of the fast rising Groupon (www.groupon.com) and says that he started his business as a total mistake. In less than 2 years, the business is global with over 600 employees.
Spencer Silver was at 3M trying to develop an extra strong adhesive when he accidently developed a product that performed exactly the opposite. Fortunately he did not disregard it because 10 years later it was used to make one of the most successful office products on the market: Post-it® notes
Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin by accident. He noticed mold spores had contaminated his bacteria samples but, looking at it more closely, realized the mold formed was dissolving harmful bacteria. That observation resulted in Penicillin and has saved millions of lives.
Frank Epperson was only 11 years old when he invented the popsicle by mistake. He had forgotten his flavored water concoction on his porch overnight in the freezing cold weather and remaining in it was his stirring stick. And the popsicle was born.
Gandma Moses began her painting career by accident. She was wallpapering her parlor and ran out of paper so to complete the project she put up white paper and painted a scene. That was the very beginning of what was to become a very successful career as a painter.
In business there are plenty of mistakes and honoring them instead of delivering a reproachful attitude makes a difference in corporate culture. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, said: “It's fine to celebrate success, but it's more important to heed the lessons of failure. How a company deals with mistakes suggests how well it will bring out the best ideas and talents of its people, and how effectively it will respond to change."
And what about our personal challenges? Even when our head is focused on being right and not making a mistake, life happens. We’re thinking it wrong, rushing it through, compromising with materials or just getting it done. Even though the result may appear to be a mistake because the outcome does not satisfy your intention, do you just toss it aside and start anew or do you take some time to reflect on it? Post-it® notes was not the planned outcome and getting to that point took about 10 years. The glue inventor shelved his idea for years before he had a serendipitous situation that triggered product development.
So it is important to evaluate all that we do as valuable. It means more than having a special way of looking at things and a unique approach to solutions; it also means keeping a vigil eye and a flexible mind. It means a willingness to take more risks and thrive in the experimental process.
Exercising creative thinking and patience can have its rewards.
"Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly."
~ Robert F. Kennedy
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”