The Art of Getting it Wrong

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
  (James Joyce)
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
   (Albert Einstein)
When was the last time you watched a small child learning to walk?  They’ll walk a couple of steps, fall over, pick themselves up and try again.  Heaven knows how many times they fall over before they master the art of walking.  They might cry the first time they fall down — they might be a bit surprised and perplexed — they might have a bit of a chuckle — but do they give up?  No.  There isn’t the tiniest question of giving up and they get back on their feet and try again. 

Just imagine, if a child stopped and thought too much about walking, he or she would probably never start.  They could spend days, weeks, months thinking about it and preparing for it, take umpteen courses, read books on how to walk but never actually do it.  Perfectionists can learn a lot from toddlers.  Not only do they put off doing things, but sometimes they're so paralysed by the fear of not getting it right that they shelve an idea completely.  We procrastinators are exactly the same: we over-think things and over-prepare, worried that we’ll never know enough or be good enough. 

Entrepreneurs and toddlers have a lot in common.  They’re both risk takers and refuse to give up.  Successful entrepreneurs often don’t become successful overnight.  In fact, they often suffer several disastrous forays into business (and lose horrible amounts of money) before they make it big.

So what can we learn from this?  Maybe to overcome the curse of perfectionism – and procrastination – we have to return to child-like thinking.  Don’t prepare. Don’t think or analyse.  Just do it.  Be prepared to fall over, pick yourself up, fall over again.  Enjoy the process, rather than worrying about the outcome.  You may not get it right the first time, or even the second – but with persistence you’ll make it in the end. 

Several years ago I was struggling with trying to write the text for my first website.  I kept putting the job off because of the fear of not 'getting it right'.  I was on the verge of giving up completely when I read a newsletter by US marketing guru, Robert Middleton, on exactly this topic.  He recalled how, many years before, he had been writing the text for his first website.  It wasn't perfect — in fact, the look and feel of the site had changed several times since that first effort.  He had, effectively, fallen over many times before eventually fashioning the product he wanted.  The point was that he had made a start and done something. 

This was a revolution in thinking for me and has helped me a lot over the years.  Accepting the idea that what you do actually doesn't have to be perfect first time.  It can be changed. It probably WILL be changed!  Sometimes you just have to recognise that what you undertake probably won’t be perfect.  But you can always strive for 80%.  We'll do the very best we can, at the time, and with the resources available to us.  The important thing is to get started.
Question:  Have you made enough mistakes recently?

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 © Annabel Sutton, Coaching Tips – 2010

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