*Note: Any typos or mistakes are on purpose, due to the nature of this blog. 😉 Have fun reading!

Introduction

We’ve all heard about how:

  • Steve Jobs had 123 versions of the iPhone before it worked.
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his college team.
  • Oprah was told she was “unfit” for television. 

Even though we know these people “failed,” we now congratulate the success they have/had. But why don’t we congratulate and celebrate the mistakes they made to get them there? More importantly, why don’t we celebrate our own mistakes? We can be so hard on ourselves, especially during times of perceived failure. 

This blog is designed to celebrate all of this as well as to provide you with ideas for your own personal growth. 

So I start with a question:

What are all the ways we can celebrate our mistakes?

Let’s Celebrate How We Learn!

In education, we talk about academic terms such as productive struggle, growth mindset, and perseverance. These are all strategies and methods for creative thinking and achievement that thrive on making and working through mistakes. However, when we assess students, we standardize the tests, even though our students don’t have standardized minds. These types of tests don’t tell us what the student knows or understands. They let us know if they were able to select the “right” answer. Giving students a “problem” to solve or a challenge to create a solution is a better “test” of their understanding and abilities.

We should look at a field of dandelions and see wishes, not weeds. If we only look for right and wrong answers, we’re not preparing our students for innovation in times where the answer is completely unknown! 

Exploratory and discovery-based learning allows the student to learn from their mistakes and formulate workable solutions PRIOR to needing coaching. A coach should support this way of thinking and guide the student through the process, not discern between right and wrong. 

Check out this Youtube Video on a warm-up game to celebrate failure in your classroom.

Let’s Celebrate How We Recover!

During a sports practice or music/theatre rehearsal, we typically stop after mistakes to correct them. But what happens when we make a mistake during the big game? Or in the middle of the concert? Does the clock reset? Do we get to start again? NO! We keep going, and we try to finish strong. Maybe we win, maybe we don’t, and the other team destroys us. 

As a musician, sometimes I would forget my part, miss a beat, lose my place on the staff, and so many things. But I couldn’t yell to the conductor, “HEY! Can we stop and try that again? I know I’ll get it next time”. I had to tune (yes, pun intended) into what I heard around me, find my place, prepare my breath, and get ready to jump back in at the next phrase, so the audience is none the wiser. Even though this happened, I was able to finish strong, on the beat, with my ensemble. By the time the piece ended, I’d often forget that a mistake even happened. Also, due to my recovery, most of the time, no one knew I messed up! 

It’s not about the mistake we made but how we bounce back from a mistake. How does the choir finish the song? How do we get the touchdown next time we have the ball? How do we get them out next inning?

Practice DOES NOT make perfect, it makes progress.

Let’s Celebrate The Process!

Giving someone time to “grieve” the mistake and reflect before jumping right in and coaching could be the trick to true learning and growth. Back to my sports example earlier, I had a realization of how long I need to grieve my own mistakes. In the middle of a game, I messed up, not a little, but like two runs got by me. I felt terrible, and what made it worse, the team had no problem telling me allllll the things I should have done at that moment instead. But, while listening to the center fielder yell ideas to me and sifting through the replay in my head, the next batter was at the plate. I was so out of the game at that point that I continued to make small mistakes that at the moment, felt HUGE.

I realized that I need to just move on in the moment, and I am open to coaching later once I’ve had time to process. Immediate problem-solving was not helpful for me at that time. And that’s 

okay! This is a fun rec league, no one has contracts, and no one is providing for their family with this league; it’s all for fun. So immediate problem-solving was not fun and did not fit the purpose of this challenge. After the game, we had some batting practice for fun, and that’s when I was open to the ideas the team was yelling at me. We had a great practice, and I was able to retain what I was told and actually implemented the ideas in the next game, and we won! 

Obviously, there are times when it’s a matter of life or death, so then yes, COACH IMMEDIATELY! But if it’s a rec league or something like that, then let some things rock and go with the flow. If true progress is the goal, then correcting and reflecting on mistakes should be planned and structured. When we embrace creativity over certainty opens learners up for more possibilities! Did I really have to go to the absolute geographic location of between 1st and 2nd base to make the play? Or could I have used better communication with my Shortstop to make the play? What are all the tricks I could use to make this play next time? Who else could assist me in making the play?

Let’s Celebrate What You No Longer Need!

For some of you, this blog may feel a lot like adding new things to your plate. Harvard Business Review conducted a series of experiments to show that people systemically overlook subtractive changes. When faced with a challenge or a problem, we often think of all the things we can add to improve or make it better. 

Sometimes you may need to look at things you can remove in order to succeed! Letting go of things that weigh us down can and should be a positive and something to celebrate.

Try asking these subtractive questions:

  • What isn’t working? What does not match my purpose? If I removed [blank] how will my progress be affected? What are all the things I can remove to be successful? How to cut down on…? 

Let’s Celebrate New Ideas!

Some ways to learn from mistakes with students, kids, or a workforce team!

  • Celebrate what happens AFTER the mistake, how they respond, how they grow, and how they bounce back!
    • most times, it’s not about the mistake but how we responded to the mistake
    • Did we give up or keep going? Did we get upset, or did we learn from our mistake? Did we get mad at our team or work on future collaboration and communication?
  • Ask open-ended questions:
    • What went well? What could be improved? What was learned? What do you wish you knew? What are all the….? How to…?
  • Speak about mistakes as a positive rather than a negative
    • “I love that you continued to communicate with the client even though there was an error with the order form. Thank you for supporting their needs while you worked on this!’

Lastly, there’s not a set number of “how-tos” because I could have made a mistake and/or missed something, so keep growing this list as you see fit!! Add your ideas in the comments! 🙂

So again, I pass the question off to you…

What are all the ways we can celebrate our mistakes?

About The Author

Jennifer Babcock

Jennifer Babcock is an educator who has been teaching students from pre-K through adulthood for over a decade. She is a Jill of all trades with her experience and uses her creativity to train and coach future teachers to be effective leaders for their students. By day she is an Adjunct Professor at Medaille College in the MSED Elementary and Adolescent program. By later day, she conducts Professional Development trainings for teachers and school leaders with Teach for America and the National Math and Science Initiative. By night, she is a happily married cat-mom who enjoys binge-watching the latest trendy shows. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance, a Bachelor of Science in Childhood Education, and a Master of Science in Creativity and Change Leadership all from Buffalo State College. Go Bills!
Check out more blogs from Jennifer Babcock here.