How to Handle Mistakes
When I was a grade-schooler, I was scared to death of bringing home anything less than an A.
And at my first job, I remember witnessing one of the most magnificently stunning acts of anger in my life: my KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) manager violently slamming a bag of flour against the wall and repeatedly kicking it.
To be fair, it was totally my fault. But I couldn't help imagining my face as a substitute-target for his foot - I quit that job immediately afterwards.
These were two experiences that taught me that failure was not to be tolerated.
Perfection was the expectation.
But what my traditional, conservative Korean parents and my needs-an-anger- management class boss didn't realize is that mistakes are part of the process.
Why do mistakes get such a bad wrap?
It's because of:
This all has to do with identifying mistakes, and failure, with our very being.
It's an awful way to take things as personally as possible. And it's just about the worst thing you can do, starts you on a negative, downward spiral.
This negative ramifications start to bleed out into your professional and personal life. You start to make (incorrect) assumptions, which is deadly for the people you interact with.
You start to think your client is late on payment because they don't respect you, your students aren't practicing because they're undisciplined, your spouse is purposely trying to get on your nerves.
Jumping to conclusions is the fastest way to permanently damage your relationships - a total loss of emotional control.
Look, we're supposed to be emotional. We have good days, we have bad days - it's part of the human experience.
But you're not supposed to flip out, lest someone record you with their smartphone and you become the next meme on the internet.
It turns into a game where you're one step away from ruining your life - a game where everyone loses.
So how do you fix this broken narrative?
You do this by:
When you do this, you create a culture where failures are the expectation and not the exception.
Take it a step further and celebrate them.
By doing this, you send the message that this is a place where you will not be judged.
And by eliminating judgment, you create an environment of acceptance.
Look, I'm no fool. It's not like I'm happy with every mistake a student makes.
But first, work on the generals and leave the particulars for later.
It's because the older I get, the more fun I want to have (life is short). And that's the experience I want every student to have.
The world has become so friggin' boring and serious, there's enough of that misery to go around.
Besides, fun equals better learning.
My students look forward to piano lessons and daily practice sessions. Heck, a lot of students even tell me it's the highlight of their week (#humblebrag).
It becomes a win-win scenario. Sometimes I can't even believe how excited I get for each lesson of the day.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Real talk: a step beyond fear of mistakes is being afraid to do the right thing.
One thing about that is it's damn hard. What makes it hard is that most of the time you'll actually be punished for it.
And modern society's unhealthy obsession with results makes it a more serious issue.
You might be thinking, why is it so bad to think about results?
It's not, it's the mindset behind it: a focus on results makes it acceptable to use the wrong process - like robbing a bank to make money.
You create a toxic culture where people are afraid to do the right thing - because doing the wrong thing is easier.
So the moral of the story is a wrong note is better than no note.
Do the right thing because it's the right thing to do.
A pretty grand objective, I'll admit. So just start with the smallest step you can manage - embrace mistakes.
How to Handle Mistakes
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