By Austin Schmidt
Guess what? I got the part I wanted in a play. I earned a master’s degree I’m proud of. I have a job I love. But also, I failed chemistry. I slept through a job interview. I got an ear infection after letting a stranger I met at a hostel pierce my ear. We like to think we are made up of our successes, but I think we’re also made up of our mistakes.
Every mis-step, every miscalculation, every outright failure offered a valuable lesson that got me where I am today. I learned to always apply myself, set priorities, and not let strangers give me piercings. I wouldn’t have learned those things without going through those experiences.
Sometimes it is through mistakes that we finally find success. You can’t pick yourself out of the dirt without falling flat on your face first.
Mistakes are a marvelous and underappreciated part of life. The question is, what do you do with a mistake? No time machine can un-do a mistake. That leaves us a few options. We can whine, we can blame other people, we can discover our mistake wasn’t quite such a big deal, or we can learn to not make that mistake again. Whining and blaming are easy. Instead, embrace the mistake.
Say to yourself, “Wow I really messed up! How can I fix this?” By asking that question, the real journey can begin. Now you are in total control of the mistake. When you own up to the fact that you made a mistake, the mistake cannot own you. Your mistake is now a catalyst to grow, or a reminder to calm down.
Let’s try something. Remember one of your mistakes. Name the feeling you had then, or now. Is that feeling ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!? Or is it like a tiny, embarrassed whisper? Even if you whined or blamed others for that mistake, you can still learn and grow from the experience. Embrace this mistake. You might even admit this mistake to a friend, to reflect and decide what to do next.
That’s my hope. That you are not afraid of your mistakes. That reflection leads to understanding and growth.
There are so many quotes from great philosophers about mistakes. But I like to go with what Ms. Valerie Frizzle says: take chances, make mistakes, get messy. So much to learn! Even from the mistakes.
Austin Schmidt is a grade one teacher who knows he misspelled “embracing” in the title and isn’t embarrassed about that. Mr. Schmidt aspires to create a classroom environment as supportive and inquisitive as Ms. Frizzle’s Magic School Bus.