I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life, things I wish I’d never said or done: like running down a hill into a bog at a gymkhana when I was eleven. Oh, the embarrassment – I wished the ground would swallow me up. And it did! For a long time I regretted going back into a ‘safe’ job after a sabbatical year exploring the world, instead of sailing off into the sunset. I also lost a major client when I blamed her for not knowing the venue of a training event she’d booked me for – big mistake! Big things and silly things. Things that changed the course of my life, and things that had no bearing. Some things I remember with shame, embarrassment, or regret and plenty of things I don’t remember at all. But the fact is we all make mistakes sometimes, it doesn’t mean that we’re a failure or that we’ll never taste success.
A client came to me with a fear of talking to the opposite sex. He wanted a partner, but he was scared of talking to women. He’d attended a flirting workshop and read books, but when it came down to it, although he was a successful entrepreneur, he wasn’t successful at chatting up girls. He didn’t know where to start, and if he did make the gargantuan effort to talk to a woman he liked, he crashed and burned! Unlike some though, he didn’t give up, he got help. We had such fun improving his communication skills, trying different things out. He learned quickly. He found love.
Two years after my return from backpacking around the world, I left my safe job that crippled me with bureaucratic red tape, mediocrity and stress, and launched myself into a freelance lifestyle, with the emphasis on ‘free’. My mortgage still got paid and, what’s even better, I loved it. Now I explore the human mind and get involved with all sorts of life-enhancing learning, and I’ve met some amazing people along the way. I don’t rely on anyone else to know where I’m supposed to turn up these days. I also learned that those tall spiky grasses indicate boggy ground and I never run down hills where they’re at the bottom. And what’s more, it finally dawned on me – embarrassment isn’t worth dying over! It is just a feeling and it can pass if you know how to let it go.
A wise poet said that we have one wild and precious life. Living equals learning. Judging your life either by its mistakes or by the things you have acquired like money, partners, power and influence, is irrelevant. These things don’t make a life a failure or a success. At the end of the day, what matters is that you have learned and grown. That you have lived a life that you feel is authentically you. That you have pursued passions playfully. Loved. Laughed. Left those around you just that bit better than when you met.
The human spirit isn’t born to be safe and never make mistakes, but to be free to explore and learn. The Beatles famously sang ‘money can’t buy me love’, and it can’t buy feeling uplifted, happy, curious, loving, grateful or compassionate either. These come through encountering the lessons living puts in your path and adjusting your course. Making a mistake is not a failure – continually repeating the same mistake until the day you die might be classed as failure – no, making a mistake is an opportunity to learn. Do better next time.