5 Reasons to Make Mistakes with Confidence


One time I was on a flight to New York from Atlanta, and there was a musician sitting behind me who was stopping traffic in the aisle.  I deduced he was a musician without turning around because a few brave souls were throwing quick compliments his way (all in the "love your music" vein).   The flight attendants were particularly attentive, passersby seemed to be staring, and the musician's traveling companion (whom I could actually see) was also a pretty "well-heeled" guy. I knew this had to be someone relatively recognizable to be getting such consistent attention.

I was dying of curiosity, so eventually I stole a glance which made things worse.

I recognized him. I knew I had seen him before. I put him in the rap/ hip hop community.

He was a very cool dude.  Loved his clothes, knew the face, but I just couldn't place who he was.  (As much as a shocker as it might be, my relational ties to the hip hop community still run a little shallower than I'd like).

Dang! Who was this guy?

Most of the flight, I racked my brain, first remembering the popular song he sang ("Hey Ya"), then recalling the group (Outkast), and then, right before landing, I FINALLY remembered his name!  When I got off the plane I waited for my colleague Dave, who was also on the flight, and excitedly asked him,

"Did you see who was on the plane??  Andre 2000!"

Yes, Dave had seen him but, he was quick to add, "Yeah.  Cool.  Oh...and his name is ANDRE 3000!"

Right. Missed it by a grand.

What difference does one thousand make anyway?

Andre 3000.  Right.  That's what I meant.  OK - maybe not.  But I was close.  Do I still get credit?  Perhaps some partial points?

If you're around me for very long, you'll know that I make verbal blunders like this all of the time.  I have a knack for mispronouncing things, for losing some details, and for always being slightly off.  Some of my friends say, "always close, never fully right."  I cite it as evidence of my "Command" Strength.

I'm tempted to compare myself to others who don't make such glaring mistakes so confidently, but that's a bad game to play.  In fact, I'm determined to turn this habit into something positive.  So here's my quick list of why it's important to make blunders confidently.  Ready?

  1. Feedback comes quickly - If you're wrong, the best thing you can do is to have someone correct you quickly!  A halfway disguised mistake will get half a correction.  So, jump in and let others set you back on the right track before you go too far astray.
  2. You set others at ease - If you make mistakes as frequently as I make them, you'll encourage others to shun the fear of their errors too.  If messing up makes others feel better,  I feel like some days I produce so much comfort in others  I should be sending out invoices for services rendered.  Glad I could help, huh?
  3. A confident mistake might lead to something better than the "correct" answer; if you discover that you have the wrong answer to the question, perhaps your answer will lead to asking even better questions about a different problem altogether.  As Henry Ford said, "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again more intelligently."
  4. Errors keep you humble - If you are wrong often enough, you won't behave like a know-it-all!  Humble pie should be a daily part of everyone's diet.
  5. You learn something - If you don't attempt to solve the problem, you're less likely to remember the eventual solution.  Thomas Edison once quoted, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."  I bet he learned from every one of them.

One of my friends loves the expression, "go big or go home," and when it comes to tripping up, whether I mean to or not, I do just that.  Give it a shot.  It's much better than failing timidly...and the reason that major-league baseball players who strike-out the most are also the ones  who hit the most home runs each year.  Swing hard.  You'll whiff some, but you'll also connect with quite a few...and you'll be amazed how far they travel when you do.

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