HomeVolume 5September 2020What is a mistake?


In this month’s column, DR. ICHAK K. ADIZES challenges us all to remove our fear of making mistakes, focus on what needs to be done in the moment, and let it be an opportunity to learn something new.

How do you handle a situation in which someone is so scared of making a mistake in the decision they need to make that they panic? If most of their energy is focused on the panic, then very little is left to deal with the problem that is worrying them. So, let’s see how we can reduce anxiety. The first thing to do is to take a deep breath and relax.

Next, go to the table, take out a piece of paper, and write down everything that you need to do that scares you. Don’t stop until you have a complete list of all the tasks you must accomplish, including laundry.

Once you have a finite list, the panic will subside. Part of anxiety comes from the feeling that the problems are endless. The moment there is an exhaustive list, there is less uncertainty. Having a finite list can offer some sense of assurance.

Now, don’t act based on your long-term goals or purpose in life when you’re in a crisis. When you are up to your neck in a swamp of crocodiles, it’s useless to think about long-term planning. What you really need to do is get the hell out of that swamp before you’re eaten alive! So you should order the list by time sensitivity. Ask yourself, “What is the most urgent thing that I have to do, and what can wait?” Then you look at that list of urgent tasks and ask yourself another question: “Does it really need to be done, or do I think it should be done because someone told me so? Or it is my ego that I want it to be done?”

The moment there is an exhaustive list,
there is less uncertainty.
Having a finite list can offer
some sense of assurance.

Don’t choose based on “want” or “should.” Focus on what must be done now, what the situation dictates. This exercise should narrow down the list but this is where the fear of making a decision comes to haunt us. You are facing reality and fear that you might make a mistake.

ut who are you not to make a mistake? Do you know anybody who has never made a mistake? If you read the Old Testament, even God made a mistake. God! He was unhappy with the sinful people and decided to kill everyone in a flood. He exempted Noah as he was righteous in his time. This doesn’t necessarily mean Noah was actually that great; he was just better than his contemporaries.

So God eliminated a whole civilization. After forty days, God probably scratched His head and said to himself, “You know what? This isn’t going to work. I can’t make them righteous.” He admits he’s powerless. God, who created the universe and everything in it, is powerless with us. Even with the power over our life, he still can’t make us righteous. It’s up to us to be righteous or not.

God decided that in order not to repeat His mistake and remind him how much power he truly has with people, He will bring a rainbow to remind Himself to stop the rain.

Are we better than God? Where the hell did we get this chutzpah? We are going to make mistakes and as long as we do our best, we can learn from our mistakes.

Well, you might say, it could be a very serious mistake. But what is the worst thing that could happen? That will relieve some of your anxiety. Are you going to die? If you’re going to die, that’s a different story. Now get a second and third opinion on what to do. If you might go to prison, become homeless, or lose your family, then it is serious.

what is a mistake

If it is just money, how bad can it be? Once you realize that the worst possible outcome isn’t the end of the world, you will be able to relax more. It is just some dip on the road, and you will survive.

Let’s assume you already made the decision. What should you do now? Monitor the effects because if it was a mistake, you still have time to take corrective action. What happens successfully in a company is not what is expected, but what’s inspected. Monitor the implementation of your decision and take prompt corrective action if the initial choice was a mistake.

If you believe you are making no mistakes,
that is your biggest mistake.
You are dead because only dead people,
physically or mentally,
do not learn anything new.

Maybe you did your best, and it still did not work right. Did you learn your lesson so that you don’t repeat the mistake? Put a rainbow picture in your room to always remind you not to repeat the error. Every mistake is not just a mistake but an invitation to learn. It’s an invitation to do better next time. People who have never made a mistake have never learned anything. If less than half of your decisions are mistakes, you’re not doing great but you are still okay: you’re learning. If only twenty percent are mistakes, you are doing real good. If you believe you are making no mistakes, that is your biggest mistake. You are dead because only dead people, physically or mentally, do not learn anything new.

Let me conclude with a story. I was having dinner with a client of mine when his phone rang. When he returned from the call, he had a long face. I asked him:
“What happened?“
“Well, I just found out I lost twenty million dollars.“
“How does it feel to lose twenty million dollars?“
He replied, “Doctor Adizes, I’m a lucky man.”
“Lucky to lose twenty million dollars? How come?“
“Well, I enrolled in a course with a twenty-million-dollar tuition fee. Not too many people can afford that. I’m lucky. Now the question is, did I pass or fail the class?”

View every mistake you make as a class. Did you or did you not learn your lesson? Those who don’t learn their lesson repeat the same mistake over and over again. They don’t have a rainbow.

Don’t be afraid of mistakes. If you err, you’re in good company. You’re not alone. It isn’t a waste, as long as you are learning Something New.

Article by DR. ICHAK K. ADIZES

Dr. Ichak Adizes

Dr. Ichak Adizes is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading management experts. He has received 17 honorary doctorates and is the author of 20 books that have been translated into 26 languages. Dr. Adizes is recognized by Leadership Excellence Journal as one of the top thirty thought leaders of America.


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