Wrong Can Be Right

Mistakes are not only your friend, they are your teacher, your guide, your guru.  But only if you see them that way.

Creating an environment that allows you to learn from mistakes should be a strategic goal.

Investing is error prone.  So is poker.  Both share one thought.  Win big and lose small.  How do you do that?  By investing small amounts with a view to learning from what happens next. 

If I know you to be a cautious poker player and I bet small and then see you bet big, I have asked a question and gotten the answer.  “Do you have a good hand” Answered “Yes!”  What was previously an acceptable hand for me, may now seem less wonderful.  If I fold, I have lost money but it was a smart loss.  It prevented a much larger one.

To fold a good hand is at worst, a small mistake.  In poker and in life it wise to remember that the only expensive hand is the second best hand.  Be willing to back away with a lesson learned for the future.

It is important for each of us to place ourselves in situations where there can be both a win and a loss.  It is important that we examine the losses and their lessons.  Experience is only valuable if you reflect on it.  People who make mistakes and then cover them up, or deny them, learn nothing. Possibly they learn better denial and covering up skills but those seem counter-productive.

Smart mistakes are your true friends.

Children know this.  When they are young they will try many things.  Their art is expressive and novel.  Their stories are exotic.  Their physical skills are pushed to the  limit.   They learn far more quickly than we adults.  Yet somehow they lose the ability to use their smart mistake skill.

That is likely why people become less creative as they grow older.  Creativity is messy, error prone, and frequently expensive.  Some people don’t like failure, even useful failure, so they stop attending this particular institution of higher learning.

Every successful business person knows about their key mistakes.  They relish them.  For most, the mistakes are very expensive, yet worth the investment – after reflecting on the lesson.

Teaching the idea that perfection is possible and desirable is the same as teaching fear.  Perfection is not going to happen and even if it appears to happen, it will be transient and probably improperly defined.  People learn less than nothing when fear of failure is the motivation.

Experience is the essence of life.  The problem is that life provides the test before it teaches the required material.  Make a great many survivable mistakes and you will know more than anyone else, eventually.

Teach the value of mistakes and the imperative to try things that could turn out wrong.  You will get stronger, less fearful and more creative children, employees and other followers.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.   don@moneyfyi.com

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