Admitting mistakes

Admitting mistakes

We live with a curious irony: everyone makes mistakes, but no one admits to making them.  OK, maybe you’re one of the few that admits theirs, but most people are as unwilling to admit their mistakes as they are to draw attention to the piece of lettuce stuck between their teeth.

That’s curious isn’t it?  I mean since mistake-making is inevitable and drives the learning process.

The reason we don’t like to admit mistakes is that we want to look good which we associate with attractiveness, social stature, love, inclusion, offers and even riches.  Our brilliant school system has taught us that when we get stuff right we get praise, rewards and attention and when we get stuff wrong we get their opposites.  Kids quickly learn that they are punished for making mistakes; and worse —that making a mistake means something bad about them.

We’d unleash human potential if we corrected this one thing; that making a mistake says nothing about you as a person and does not make you look bad as long as you learn from it; that you’re socially more valuable when you share your mistakes.   In fact, life is about making mistakes.

Mistakes are teachers

Mistakes do more than signal you’re on the wrong path, they are opportunities to spread learning so that others avoid making the same mistakes.  Hiding mistakes guarantees that group learning cannot take place and increases the social and economic costs of those mistakes.

Nowhere is this failure to admit mistakes more prevalent than among doctors and below is talk from Dr. Brian Goldman who talks about how this has to change and why.  It’s a refreshing look at authenticity and I hope it inspires you to admit to a mistake you’ve made; or perhaps are still making.  Imagine what it must be like for him as a doctor to admit what he does in this talk.


Photo by kthypryn

Photo by kennethkonica

Photo by RowdyKittens

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.