Find the Silver Lining in Your Mistakes

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

          You screwed up! You made a mistake. And now you feel like crawling into the nearest hole and cementing yourself away in isolation. Your colleagues are getting on your back. Your direct reports are smirking behind your back.  Your sense of conviction has been taken aback. And now your self-confidence – your reservoir of proven competencies– has sprung a leak and thrown you on your back.

        Well cheer up!

        Think of your mistakes as learnings that can lead to future earnings. Business is filled with stories of profitable products that were founded by mistake. Regain your composure. Renew your sense of hope. Recall the silver lining in these mistakes that turned into celebrated products.

1. Coca-Cola was created by mistake.

A fountain-clerk in Atlanta mistakenly added soda water instead of tap water to John S. Pemberton’s jar of new syrup.

2. Ivory soap was created by mistake.

A factory worker mistakenly left a soap-mixing machine on when he went for lunch. When he returned, he found so much air had been whipped into the soap that it floated.

3. Lifesavers candy was invented by mistake.

A machine used to press mints together malfunctioned and mistakenly pressed too hard on the mints, forming the tiny candy rings.

4. Wheaties cereal was invented by mistake.

A worker mistakenly spilled bran porridge on a hot stove.

5. The microwave oven was invented by mistake.

A candy bar mistakenly melted in a worker’s pocket from the microwave signals while engineers at Raytheon experimented with the microwave.

6. Shatterproof safety glass was invented by mistake.

A French scientist mistakenly knocked over a glass bottle. It fell six feet to a stone floor. The glass cracked but did not break. The glass was coated with a transparent chemical that had evaporated.

7. Rubber shoes were invented by mistake.

Charles Goodyear mistakenly dropped a chunk of sulfur-cured rubber on a hot stove. Instead of melting, the rubber got stronger.

8. The Popsicle was invented by mistake.

A lemonade salesman mistakenly left a glass of lemonade with a spoon in it on his windowsill overnight. The lemonade froze.

        No wonder Edward Land, then president of Polaroid, had a plaque in his office that read: “A mistake is an event, the full benefit of which has not yet been turned to your advantage.” And Tom Watson, founder of IBM, said: “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”

           That’s what three record holders in major league baseball history did: Hank Aaron, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. They doubled their failure rate.

  • Aaron struck out twice as often as he hit a home run over 23 seasons to hit 755 home runs and become major league baseball’s all-time career home run hitter in 1976.
  •  Then in 1998 McGwire doubled his failure rate . He hit the most home runs ever in a single season at that time in major league baseball. But McGwire also struck out more than twice as often (155) as he hit a home run (70).
  • Then in 2001, Bonds broke McGwire’s record, hitting a season record 73 home runs. But Bonds also struck out more often that season than he had over 11 previous seasons. In fact, Bonds struck out 18 times more often in 2001 than his average over those previous 11 seasons (74.9).

  Don’t Mistake Your Mistakes for Mistakes

       So don’t mistake your mistakes for mistakes. Think of your mistakes as a “miss-take.” A “take” in the movies is the uninterrupted filming of a scene. A “miss” is something off target. So a miss-take –or a mistake—is an off-target scene.

       Leaders simply refocus. They pan their personal cameras. They don’t pan themselves. They get a new view and they begin anew, turning their missteps into more precise next steps up the slippery ladder of success.

         The most effective leaders see their mistakes as so many markers on the road to success. The more mistakes the closer they are to reaching their success. They embrace the notion of Benjamin Franklin when the famed inventor and statesman noted: “The man who does things makes many mistakes but he never makes the biggest mistakes of all – doing nothing.”

        Doing something – even making a mistake — can indeed be a blessing in disguise as Chinese philosopher Wang Yang-Ming notes: “The sages do not consider that making no mistakes is a blessing. They believe that the great virtue of man lies in his ability to correct his mistakes and continually to make a new man of himself.”

Today’s ImproveMINT
Try not to mistake your mistakes for mistakes to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

You might also like these previous  Leadership Mints on Productivity.
Crossing Your Finish Line In Style
Let Your Competition Work for You
Raising the Flag on Your ImagiNATION

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2 thoughts on “Find the Silver Lining in Your Mistakes

  1. Pingback: Oooops: Making Mistakes in Judgement « LEADERSHIP MINTS

  2. Pingback: Productivity: Making your Meetings POP « LEADERSHIP MINTS

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