Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Making Mistakes

Alina Tugend writes today about mistakes and what we learn (or don't learn) from them. It's an interesting piece, because it addresses multiple studies done on perceptions of mistakes. If you are taught that being smart and an achiever means not making mistakes, it can make you less likely to challenge yourself out of fear of failure. On the other hand, if you are encouraged for your efforts, you are more likely to take mistakes as learning tools, and use them to improve your own performance.

Like most people in life, I've made plenty of mistakes. I wrote a very inflammatory letter to the editor of my high school paper that got me blackballed from the drama club. I used my first credit card irresponsibly, and I'm still paying it off. I left a good job for a bad job, and I set back my career.

I don't like to think about mistakes that I've made. A lot of times I feel really guilty about them, because in addition to hurting me, they hurt other people. My letter to the editor said some made some nasty accusations, and I still wish I could go back and apologize. I'm angry that I have debt, and I feel bad that I can't contribute more to the household expenses because of it. By leaving my last job, I've made the money situation in my home more perilous, which isn't fair to my husband.

But I can't afford to hold onto the bad part of these mistakes. It doesn't do anything. What I can do, is look at what went wrong, and not replicate it. This particularly applies in the job arena. What I need to do is learn more about office politics, that's very clear. I was perusing through Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office yesterday at the bookstore, and I picked up one piece of really useful advice towards this: when arriving in a new workplace, write down all the rules that apply there, the unwritten ones. This will help sort out how to interact with your office mates, and hopefully keep you from stepping on anyone's toes.

It's difficult to sort through wanting to learn from mistakes while there is so much pressure not to make any. I hope that as my career progresses, I can keep an open mind to my mistakes, and not let the pressure keep me down.

3 responses:

Amy Scherzer said...

Kate,
Another alternative is to start a home based business while recovering from your retro move and make it sucessful enough to eventually quit your new, less than perfect job.

Gene said...

Thats the thing about mistakes - everyone makes them, from your delivery trick drivers to CEOs. 2 crucial points that have always helped me deal with the repricussions of mistakes are:
1. Recognizing the mistakes early, and act accordingly.
2. Not let the mistakes you make define you, or negatively affect you.

Jay said...

Mistakes are only those things that we regret. They do not define you--you define you. And you define what your mistakes were. And then you learn. More importantly, anyone who hasn't made significant errors hasn't taken significant risks, either. And one of the best quotes ever is "He who will not risk cannot win."


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