I have had the opportunity to experience many things in life that can be categorized as wins, losses, successes, or failures. I scored the winning run in a Little League game and made an error that helped the other team score the winning run in another. I failed or dropped out of college 6 times and graduated with honors and earned a Master’s Degree. I have lived in seedy motels, in my car, and didn’t know where my next dime was coming from. I have been paid above six figures and lived well financially. I was taught like many of us that winning the game is good and losing the game is bad. I learned early that if I was average in school and brought home a C, I would not “see” the light of day for a while and I don’t even want to talk about the day I brought home an F. Failure was bad and harsh punishment was mandatory, especially my own self-punishment. Many people that I speak with feel the same way and harshly self-punish when “failing” at something. It is the way we were taught, agreed with, and adopted as fact.
Congratulations, You Screwed Up!
In my mid-thirties my life course took a different direction. I had worked at various positions up to this point and I tried my best and did well at all of them, except when I failed at something and harshly punished myself for the error. That is when I met Greg who had hired me as a windows salesman. I would sell customers custom made, high quality residential windows and doors. I was responsible for writing the order correctly, measuring the openings, and submitting the order for review. My first order I got correct. My second order I screwed up everything but my name. As I made the long walk to Greg’s office, ruminating about what a failure I was, how I should start looking for another job, and how being a salesman probably was “too hard” for me, I saw Greg’s smile. He said, “What’s up? You look like you’ve lost your best friend.” I told him about how I had screwed up the order and sincerely said I was sorry. He continued to smile and when I was finished he stood up from his desk and I knew I was done as a salesman. But he stuck his hand out and said, “Congratulations you just screwed up on one order more than most people do in five or six. This is so great!” Great? I looked at him for signs of intoxication but there were none. Greg is a brilliant businessman and he was serious. He liked my mistakes.
Learning From Losing
Greg instilled in me that mistakes are good and should be learned from. Each mistake that we make is an opportunity to grow as a person and can be utilized in any walk of life. That does not mean we do not try your best all of the time, but humans make mistakes. It is reality. I continue to learn from the mistakes I make in my life. When I have a day where I make less than healthy choices with food and exercise, I learn that I need better preparation, more sleep, stronger focus, supportive environments, and not to bring the unhealthy food into the house, among other things. I also learned to not hold onto guilt or shame and to move forward and start over. I am human and will make decisions that I need to learn from. For years, if I was trying to be healthy and had a few “bad” days, guilt and shame would set in and it became a revolving door scenario. It NEVER changed until I changed the way that I viewed “failure.”
You’re A Winner!
You will make mistakes and be a human. You will have days where you make less than healthy choices, yell at the guy in the other car, defend your point with your spouse to the brink of breakup, and be a couch potato. You can choose to learn from your mistakes like Greg and so many successful people in business, sports, politics, window sales, and wellness do. You can congratulate yourself for totally screwing up. You can be your own miracle!