The best way to deal with mistakes


Proof that I’m an idiot: the triple-humped M

I’ve made several mistakes in my life – including the triple-humped M. But I’m just going to tell you about one more.

Back when I was at uni, I used to live by a canal. My house was actually a bit above the canal because I also lived on a massive hill.


These are good for kicking

The path I walked home everyday ran parallel with the water but was separated by a row of trees and a good ten foot drop. I used to enjoy kicking little green berries over the trees and into the water.

They didn’t make a splash or anything but it still felt like an achievement.

And because this is the internet, I can show you exactly where this happened:


You can see with the height and density of the trees that this was a difficult game. I had to put a lot of effort into it, but it rewarded me handsomely – providing me with entertainment, ambition and self esteem boosts  – on a good day.

This is all sounding quite positive. But I certainly wouldn’t promise you a mistake and then fail to deliver.

My (non)fatal flaw in this story is that I’ve never been much of a believer in tying up shoe laces. I really only have laces out of peer pressure – I could easily be a Velcro man. So I often leave my trainers untied.

But this one day they were on super loose. And after a few failed berry launches i really went for it. In many ways I was over successful with my next attempt – because my shoe followed the berry over the trees and into the water. This time it did make an impressive splash.

I returned home that day with just one trainer on. Much to my housemate’s merriment.

But none of that tells you how to deal with mistakes

And maybe you’ve made quite a lot of them. Or maybe you’ve made one recently and you can’t forget about it.

I’ve done stupider things than kicking my shoe in a canal – that much is certain. But I would say that 90% of my past failures are not even nearly a problem now.

Yet at the time some of them felt devastating.

Whenever I get crappy feedback on a project it feels really terrible. Especially if I’ve misunderstood something in a really obvious way. I imagine the voices of my seniors saying negative things in their fancy boss meetings and thinking negative things in their fancy boss heads.

But they probably think about my mistakes for a fraction of the time that I do. It’s easy to turn your brain into a weird sort of slow-cooker that specialises in making delicious failure stews (how many metaphor points do I get for that?)

I wouldn’t want to tell you not to feel ashamed of your mistakes at all because they are probably stupid and you should know that.

But you should only know that for like 5 minutes while you learn the lesson. After that it’s pointless dwelling. I’ve never relapsed on my shoe-flinging habit and I don’t feel ashamed of it at all. I learnt the lesson but left the shame.

So if you’ve made a mistake, here’s my advice:

  1. Decide whether it’s part of the 90% (not life changing, just stupid) or the 10% (really serious and long-term life changing.)
  2. If it’s the 90% (which it probably is) eat a quick failure salad (+5 metaphor points), learn that lesson and leave it behind.

If it’s the 10% of mega big serious stuff, you probably need better advice than this blog. Try a friend or a counselor or maybe that Jeeves guy.

To end I’m going to leave you with the good news that I got my trainer back from the canal, eventually. And after letting it dry I wore it for a good six months after – with no ill effects.

And I still kick berries today. But I do keep my shoes tied most of the time.