I'm currently reading Failing Forward by John Maxwell and wanted to share an excerpt from his book.
Working artists David Bayles and Ted Orland, in their book, Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, tell a story about an art teacher who did an experiment with his grading system for two groups of students. It is a parable on the benefits of failure. Here is what happened:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A,” forty pounds a “B,” and so on. Those being graded on “quality,” hoever, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A.” Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
It doesn’t matter whether your objectives are in the area of art, business, ministry, sports, or relationships. The only way you can get ahead is to fail early, fail often, and fail forward.
This really struck a chord with me. I don't like to make mistakes. I mean really...who does? I was teased a lot in school growing up. I never wanted to draw attention to myself. Never wanted to make a mistake and have someone laugh at me. I'd strive to do things perfectly so that would NEVER happen. If I made a mistake, I'd be quick to try and hide it hopeful no one would notice. On some level it became wrong to make mistakes.
Maxwell attempts to change our thinking about mistakes in this book. The idea is that we truly grow when we allow ourselves to make mistakes. How often do you find yourself wishing you could do something, but don't out of fear? Worried people will laugh at you? Or that you'll look like a fool. Like the students above, you waste your time mulling the "perfect" plan in your head, looking for the perfect solution instead of just going for it. I know I've faced this battle a few times with fitness. "What program should I follow? What food should I eat? I know this food is healthy but maybe if I do this...or this it could be better?" Just pick something, stick to it and get it done. If you stumble and make a mistake - learn from it and keep going. Don't live for yesterday or tomorrow - focus on today. Yesterday is gone. Today is all we have. If you miss a workout for a poor excuse or eat something you shouldn't, learn from the experience. Acknowledge where you went wrong. Were you hungry? Were you depriving yourself too much? Were you getting enough sleep? Use these "failures" as an opportunity to learn and move forward.