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Managing Mistakes


“Anyone who has never made a mistake

has never tried anything new.”

― Albert Einstein

Few things in life waste more time and energy and—worst of all-- potential than the misguided way that many people naturally relate to their own mistakes. Often on the mat, the sheer horror that a student feels upon screwing up manifests itself in apologies, forehead slapping, teeth gnashing and even the occasional four-letter word (my own Shihan quickly cured me of that tendency with a 25 pushups-per-word toll). Focus is lost, momentum slowed and the mood suddenly soured as what should have been a minor hiccup in a person’s practice suddenly becomes a Big Thing.

Like many of the things that we deal with in our day-to-day, every day, the way we respond to our mistakes is almost always much more important than the mistake itself. Time and energy given to hand-wringing and unnecessary apologies (mea culpa’s are only ever expected in the Dojo in the case of poor etiquette or unintended contact) is time that could and should be spent learning from the mistake and moving beyond it.

But the most tragic reaction to Fear of Mistakes is paralysis, time and energy that are never given to an activity or experience that just might have brought a whole new dimension to a person’s life, because it brings with it the certainty of miscalculations and missteps. It’s why we need to constantly challenge our children – and ourselves – to accept the fact that mistakes are not only a part of growing, they are absolutely crucial to it.


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