(BLOG 12) Mistake Making: Own It!

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Students all over this country are afraid of making mistakes. Adults are over this country are afraid of making mistakes. So what?

As a company we have traveled all across the US and into Canada working with faculty, staff, administrators, and students. We are a curious bunch, so whenever we have the chance, we start asking questions and are eager to learn about the gifts and challenges that occur day-to-day in schools. We have learned a lot over the past 16 years.

We are very concerned about the growing number of students and educators that are afraid of making mistakes. At a very early age, humans see mistake making as a natural part of life. My two-year old makes mistakes constantly. He doesn’t care in the least when he makes a mistake. He’ll spill his water on the carpet, look up, say, “oops,” and move on to the next blunder. It’s beautiful. So what happens along the way? Why will my two-year old eventually do everything in his power to AVOID making mistakes? Is that what I want as his dad? Sure, as humans we want to make fewer and fewer mistakes, that makes sense, but when the mindset is locked, at a young age, that mistakes are awful moments surrounded by ridicule and punishment, the way we SEE mistakes is very different.

Mistakes are the catalyst for learning lessons. If that catalyst is cloaked in negativity, the moment of the mistake and the impact of the mistake are not healthy. We can read about lessons; we can hear about other people’s lessons; we can watch other people learn lessons, but it often doesn’t hold sway in our consciousness unless we make the mistake that leads to our own lesson. The key is to OWN the mistake so you can get straight to the lesson. A natural tendency after a mistake has been made is to Deny/Hide, Blame, Justify, or Dwell. If we do all or any of those four things, we push the lesson further and further from us. If we Own It, we bring the lesson closer.

School’s two main purposes are to develop humans and to keep curiosity alive in students. In order to have human development, we need to understand that mistakes are going to occur. If curiosity is alive in students, mistakes will no doubt follow. It’s beautiful. More beautiful than that is that our mistake making will take a new form: mistakes will no longer feel like mistakes, as they will no longer be associated with negativity. They will simply be another piece of human development. Let’s take something that is completely inevitable and make it healthy and useful.

With mistakes, we learn. When we learn, we develop and grow.

Contact us to learn how we can work with your students, faculty/staff, or business around this topic:


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Top 20’s primary goal is to revolutionize education in America by helping students become more engaged in school and providing teachers with a new way of seeing themselves as relevant educators in the 21st century.

In addition, because it uses common language, easily understood concepts and practical tools for dealing with everyday situations and problems, Top 20 can have a profoundly positive effect on any organization, from business to government to healthcare, enhancing relationships and experiences for all.

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