How Do You React to Mistakes?

I hear it all the time – “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying anything new.”

While it’s comforting to hear that everyone makes mistakes, they can be a small blow to the ego. I’ve made lots of mistakes over my professional career. Some still stick in my mind and return from time to time to serve as cautionary tales.

It’s great to learn from mistakes and look back on them. But another important factor in the experience is how you react to the mistake at the time.

I watch a lot of youth hockey (because my daughter plays). If you’ve ever watched a hockey game, you will know that everyone makes mistakes on the ice – not just those who are learning how to play! Watch a professional game, or even the Olympics – even the pros make mistakes.

Another thing you’ll observe is that there are basically two ways hockey players react to making mistakes. These are also the ways you might react to mistakes you make in your own professional life.

1. Slam your stick on the ice and make a big physical demonstration about how frustrated you are at having made a mistake. Take yourself out of the game completely while you act out your frustration.

2. Keep playing. Put the mistake behind you and push yourself back into the game as quickly as possible. Learn from the mistake and avoid making the same one in the future. Don’t let yourself be distracted from your ultimate goal.

It’s “somewhat” understandable when the players are younger and less mature, but I am sure you’ll also see the pros reacting both ways – and not just in ice hockey. Other athletes also fall into the trap of taking themselves out of the game in order to kick themselves or act out their frustrations on the field.

Now step back and think about how you react to mistakes you make in your business. Do you take yourself out of the game and dwell on your mistakes, or do you use them as a learning point and get back in the game as quickly as possible?

Early on, I could spend days moping and kicking myself for making a stupid mistake. Now that (I like to think) I am more mature in my professional career, I make sure I recover quickly from my mistake and not let it distract me from my ultimate goal: a successful business.