“If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake.”~Frank Wikzek
We write often about the fact that failure is a key step towards success. That mistakes are good, and necessary. That taking an easy route may yield less errors and missteps, but will also most likely yield fewer results. That your problems, your big problems, will stay unsolved.
We write about it often because we believe it. And we’ve witnessed it with numerous clients over the many, many years. Our clients (and our friends, family, colleagues, and selves) who are willing to risk making mistakes are generally the ones who conquer the challenges that matter – who work on hard enough problems. And our clients (and friends, family, colleagues, and selves) who seem to play it safe – who don’t make mistakes – are the ones who maybe solve the little things, or nothing at all. We see the most growth when people push themselves to address the biggest obstacle, or unravel the most difficult puzzle. It’s simply that simple.
So, we obviously coach our clients to be willing – and able – to go out and make mistakes. We also coach them to be willing – and able – to let the people who work for and around them go out and make mistakes as well. Because we need to take those chances ourselves to have the greatest return, and we need to model, and encourage, that attitude and behavior in others as well.
Let’s all go find our big enough problems to tackle, and allow ourselves to make – and celebrate – our mistakes along the way.
How can you work on hard enough problems – and allow yourself mistakes?
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It is important that we not be paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes. Some of the most profound breakthroughs in science and business have come through what would have been characterized as mistakes or failures.
I keep in front of me a little saying that I find helpful. It says:
“Always make new mistakes”, a quote attributed to Esther Dyson.
What this says to me is that we need to learn from prior mistakes, but not be made excessively cautious by the fact that we have gone down the wrong path from time to time. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”
Thank you Greg. I totally agree. We need to be willing and open to make mistakes in order to learn, and also to be smart about the whole thing. A tough and great challenge I find!
Another quote I love is from Woody Allen, “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything innovative.”