So You’ve Made a Mistake. Now What?
Being wrong or making a poor choice is an experience, not a final act.
He wrote the equations on the blackboard:
9 x 1 = 9, 9 x 2 = 18, 9 x 3 = 27, 9 x 4 = 36, 9 x 5 = 45
9 x 6 = 54, 9 x 7 = 63, 9 x 8 = 72, 9 x 9 = 81, 9 x 10 = 91
Suddenly, chaos erupted in the classroom. Albert Einstein had made a basic mistake: 9 x 10 isn’t 91.
Einstein calmly waited for everyone to be silent, then said:
“Despite the fact that I analyzed nine problems correctly, no one congratulated me. But when I made one mistake, everyone started laughing. This means that even if a person is successful, society will notice their slightest mistake.
So, don’t let criticism destroy your dreams. The only person who never makes a mistake is someone who does nothing.”
The anecdote is a timeless lesson from one of the most influential scientists, visionaries and disruptors of the 20th century — and is relevant to us no matter where we are on our leadership discovery journeys.
Far too often, we destroy our dreams before they ever really get started. We allow a mistake, our inner critic or other people’s opinions — even from years ago — to creep into our mental narrative of what we can accomplish. We put barriers on our possibilities that then extend into the other components of our leadership worlds.
As leaders and positive-difference makers, we must recognize that we are inevitably going to make mistakes. They are what make us human and are vital components of our personal and collective transformations.
Understand, we never have to over-internalize the mistake or a critic’s opinion. Cultivating our mental fitness to a level where our missteps do not paralyze us becomes the assignment at hand.
Being wrong or making a poor choice is an experience, not a final act. And inside every obstacle and setback are hidden opportunities for a comeback if we remain open to the lesson.
The next time we make a mistake, let’s accept it, acknowledge it, and lean into it, but not from a defensive position. Let’s lean into it through a lens of true self-improvement.
Anything worthwhile will be difficult and, at times, uncomfortable. Yet, we still need to climb the mountaintop we desire. After all, it’s in this climb that lie the breakthroughs and opportunities for discovery.
If the mistakes we make are always about us and not about how we can learn and grow from them, we cannot fulfill our obligations of empowering future leaders.
We have a duty to maximize our precious time in this unique moment in history while helping to champion change and make a difference.
Getting over our past mistakes is the first step.
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