The Value of Mistakes

There is Nothing Wrong with You

Of all the things I said to Eva that night, I didn’t say the most important thing, “There is nothing wrong with you. Making mistakes doesn’t make you less valuable; they help you learn. Embrace them.”

I spent the evening listening to holiday music by local musicians at the Shamrock Club. The first act was also the last act .¨ The Ladies of Longford. This is an all-female band with an amazing following and incredibly talented musicians. The talent started years ago with Hilda Doyle, but expanded to include her two daughters, Heather and Stephanie, as well as a standing ovation fiddle player, Elizabeth and all-around star musician, Molly. Now, another generation of voices is admonishing the stage.

One newbie in particular is Heather’s daughter, Eva, who is the ripe old age of 10. Singing a cool winter song I had never heard before, Eva put on a fantastic performance to open the evening’s festivities. Toward the end of the night, Eva graced the stage once more for an encore performance of her opening song. When finished, she quickly left the stage and came back to sit near me. I noticed a tear or two rolling down her sweet face.

Her father said she had tears in her eyes because she felt she made mistakes while singing. I told her I never noticed. Then she said she had a cold and it was worse it night, making it harder to sing. I told her I never heard the cold in her lovely voice. Then she asked me if I saw her crying on stage. I told her I didn’t, but that it just shows how professional she is at such a young age to continue singing when she thought she made mistakes, with the challenge of a cold and with tears in her eyes. Then I passed an Angel Coin to her with the word LOVE inscribed on the back. I gave a similar coin to another singer, Melissa Etheridge, not long ago. They are magical -the singers and the angel coins. A gentle smile replaced the stress and tears.

The next day I was going about my business when it hit me like a ton of bricks – I didn’t tell Eva the most important thing .¨ that it’s okay to make mistakes. Making mistakes doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. Mistakes are our way of learning, experiencing and growing. So many of us feel the way Eva feels when we make a mistake, mess up, screw up or, as my mother says, flub up. I know I have felt this way numerous times in my life. Even if no one else noticed my blooper, I told myself everyone did, which only made me feel worse and added to the stress and pressure I already felt to be perfect.

Mistakes make us so frustrated that we scream, cry and kick things. But, most of all, we feel stupid. We react because the embarrassment of looking stupid is tied to our fear of failure. No one wants to feel like a failure. We don’t want to be ridiculed by others, either. But, the truth is we ridicule ourselves more than anyone else ever could.

It is clear the fear of making mistakes is trained into our mind. However, I propose a change in the way we view mistakes and what we teach our kids about mistakes. It is time for us to embrace mistakes and put a positive, truthful and helpful spin on them.

The Power in Making Mistakes

In science, the goal is to make as many mistakes as quickly as possible. The mistakes are a critical component of science because they lead to the discovery. Mistakes root out the errors. When all errors are gone, what’s left is the breakthrough or the invention. Scientists also record every detail of their mistakes for all to read knowing everyone learns from them. Mistakes, then, are a powerful way to make discoveries of all types – scientific, professional and personal.

How do we view mistakes and what do we teach our children about mistakes? When you flub up do you shut down and think you can’t fix it .¨ ever? Do you think if you can’t fix it, then why try at all? If those are your points of view, one thing is certain. The mistake will continue to happen until you embrace the messages, the learning and the opportunities for growth that are inherent in the mistake and do something different.

Credit: Hunter Maats and Katie O’Brien

A new mindset about mistakes could propel us to the next level of whatever it is we want to do. We have to be willing to let go of old thinking. We have to change our mind and believe that mistakes have no bearing on our value as a person. We can learn to see mistakes as a way to figure out how to make something work or to iron out those rough spots in a performance. We can learn the truth behind mistakes .¨ that they are a powerful mechanism to help us grow.

First, we need to know failure is an illusion. You can’t fail. If you do something and it doesn’t work out, you have just learned something. You have eliminated a choice and can move on to another approach. Everyone who has ever done anything we would consider amazing has made numerous mistakes like Einstien, Tesla and Newton. It is these valuable mistakes that honed the skills of the inventors, the entrepreneurs or anyone else who discovered anything. We can do the same with our own life.

Next, we need to embrace new ideas about mistakes. Let’s do what scientists do and analyze mistakes rather than feel ashamed because of them. We can use the information we from our analysis to motivate us towards our end goal. This changes the entire energy from a mistake to a victory. Victories make us stronger and happier.

Finally, we can use our internal power to welcome our blunders and stop feeling bad about them. As we place less significance and negativity on mistakes, we are free to explore, solve and enjoy all that life has to offer. We all deserve this freedom.

It is time for us to stop being so hard on ourselves. Everyone makes mistakes. We are all in this together. Encourage mistakes as a way to learn and grow. Tell yourself it’s okay to slip up. Be supportive of others when they make big blunders. We can use mistakes to eliminate what isn’t working in our lives or to see where we need to spend more time practicing something. That’s all mistakes are anyway – practice.


This article is dedicated to my friend and talented singer, Eva Fraser.