The Flashlight Story in last week’s Wellness Wednesday reminds us of the damaging and limiting impact our experience of mistakes and failure can have on our lives. Our friend Michael lived with a terrified belief and fear of making a mistake for over 40 years. Then he heard me tell my Popcorn Story.

While my parents were watching TV in the living room, I decided to make popcorn in the kitchen. Growing up in the ‘50’s, microwave popcorn was not an option. I had to make popcorn the old-fashioned way. I poured oil in a pot and placed it on the stove. When the oil was hot, I reached up to pour popcorn seeds into the pot. When the plastic bag containing the popcorn seeds touched the hot pot, a hole melted in the bag and popcorn seeds spilled all over the stove, counter, and floor.

Upon hearing this commotion, my parents came rushing into the kitchen and immediately asked, “Are you okay?”

Although startled by what had just happened, “Yes,” I answered.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“Good,” said my parents. “We’ll help you clean up the mess.”

For the next few minutes, they helped me clean up the popcorn mess. Then, after successfully making popcorn a second time, we watched TV together in the living room.

My popcorn mistake experience and the way my parents responded had a powerful impact on me and resulted in learning four important lessons:

  1. I’m more important than a mess. Because my parents’ immediate concern was for my wellbeing and not for the mess on the floor, I was reminded of my value and worth.
  2. Be there when people make a mistake. One of our responsibilities is to help others when they experience difficulties. It’s not our responsibility to clean it up for them, but to support them in making things better.
  3. A lesson is in the mistake. In every mistake we make, life intends to teach us a lesson. My lesson was that heat melts plastic.
  4. Mistakes are wonderful. Because many wonderful things can be learned from mistakes, failure and risk-taking, they are to be valued and not avoided.

Forty years after Michael experienced his Flashlight Story, he had an awakening when he heard me tell my Popcorn Story to a class of high school students. He now realized that there was a different way of seeing mistakes. He now knew that he could learn from a mistake without requiring punishment. He could focus on the lesson and not dwell on the mistake.

Reflection: Have you had any experience regarding mistakes or failure that has resulted in learning important life lessons or encouraged you to move outside your Comfort Zone? If so, what was the lesson and/or how did you benefit by moving outside your Comfort Zone?

From our team…Willow, Kevin, and Tom…who have found incredible growth and success from mistakes and failure.

Paul Bernabei
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