My Best Mistake

Owning your mistakes may be the best thing you ever do.  Then again, maybe not.

I make a lot of mistakes.  I am a writer, and yet, I am crappy at grammar. But that’s OK. For every mistake I make, I get really nice people who offer to help me fix my grammar. And since I own up to my mistakes and correct them, I have ended up learning a lot and gotten to know some really cool people as a result of those mistakes. People who wrote to me who otherwise wouldn't have.

My attitude about mistakes is this.  I’m gonna make them. So, the sooner I admit my mistake and correct it, the less stupid I appear.

I have found that owning your mistakes but not letting your mistakes stop you from  making progress towards your goal, whatever that is, seems to work.  Correct your mistakes and keep moving forward.

Among other things, I’m a social dancer.  I quite good actually and have taught classes in social dance. One time I was dancing in a restaurant with a friend and someone asked us whether what we were doing was choreographed. It wasn't. They asked us, don’t you make mistakes?  Of course we do.  What separates the good dancers from the not so good dancers isn't whether mistakes are made or not. Mistakes are going to be made.  It’s how you respond to the mistake that differentiates the experienced dancers from the newer dancers. Experienced dancers make mistakes, smile at each other to acknowledge the mistake and keep dancing. Literally.  We don’t let our mistakes stop us from completing the dance. And, as far as the audience is concerned, as long as you start together and stop together – they think you are dancing well.  They don’t notice the mistakes.  You’d have to have a trained eye to notice and even then, this is a social dance, not a competition.

One time I was part of a group that won a free call square dance competition. This is where you don’t know what the call will be – the callers are randomly calling out patterns and sometimes interrupt patterns with new ones. You have to be quick to respond to do this well. We won this competition, not because we practiced the patterns, but because we instead practiced how to recover from our mistakes so no one noticed us making them.  It wasn't that we didn't make mistakes; we totally did. We just had a strategy for how to keep the dance going.  Our strategy? Whatever you do, don’t stop dancing.

So what is my “best” mistake?  I’d have to say it was the time I was singing for a country-punk-a-boogie band.  We had a song with a stop in it: a moment where we all hit a note together, pause for a beat of silence, and then pick up the song again. When done right, it’s a super cool effect - like an explosion. But you have to hit it together as one for it to work. And ... one night on stage in front of a crowd and other bands, we played the song and missed the stop.  All 6 of us hit that stop at six completely different times. Like a stuttering train wreck. It wasn't just bad. It was glaringly obviously bad.  But we were performing and things like this happen and we didn't stop.  Even though we hit that stop at 6 different times, we all managed to start on the pickup back into the song together and we finished together! We got a standing ovation.   Not because our performance was flawless, obviously, but because despite the problem – we kept going and ended well!!!!

The lesson I want you to take from all of this is. Your goal isn't to be perfect. It’s to make it to the end of the song. Whether you are dancing, or singing, or writing, or working on a project or running a marathon, success is measured not by how perfectly you perform, but by whether you made it to the end of the song.

When you make a mistake, hang in there and keep dancing. Don’t stop until the music does.

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