Mistakes Are Friends

My friend, Jon Harper (@jonharper70bd), has recently started a new podcast titled My Bad. This podcast is a place where, as Jon puts it, “extraordinary educators learn by sharing their mistakes…mess up, fess up, and share with us on My Bad.” Jon also recently also started a Twitter chat using the hashtag #mybad16.  I had the opportunity to participate in this Twitter chat on Monday night.  Even though I was multitasking during the chat, the ideas have stuck with me this week.

As I have thought about this chat, I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from the movie Zootopia. Zootopia is a animated movie about a small rabbit named Judy Hopps, who chases her dream of joining the police force in the city of Zootopia.  At the start of the movie, Judy’s parents, Bonnie and Stu Hopps, do not see a reason for Judy’s big dreams because no rabbit has ever been a police officer. In efforts to deter her from this goal, Stu says to Judy: “See? That’s the beauty of complacency, Judy. If you don’t try anything new, you’ll never fail!”

Although a comical statement in the movie, many of us live this very sentiment on a daily bases.  We play it safe, find ways to get it right, and work to never make (or at least admit) mistakes. You see, that is the beauty of complacency, it feels good.  Complacency keeps you in your comfort zone and your comfort zone is a beautifully pleasant place where nothing grows.

Mistakes are not our enemy, mistakes are our ally. They work with us, just like our closest friends to help us get better.  Let us be honest, nothing ever really goes as planned…nothing works out exactly as we want it.  So, if it does not work out as planned, then we can say with some amount of confidence that there are mistakes in everything we do.  Small, incremental, errors are how we learn. How much we learn when mistakes are made (and owned) greatly determines how far we will go in reaching our dreams. No mistakes, means no learning, which ultimately means complacency.  We cannot grow without mistakes. The challenges comes when we try something new and it ends up not working like we would have hoped, and we end up telling ourselves “that failed” rather than “I failed.”  Never let the things that happen to you define you. You define you; only you have that power.

The point of life is not to avoid the storms, it is to be better because of them. If you look back, our best lessons are learned through error, not through success. Sure, successes are more fun, but the joy of a win never lasts as long as the sting of a defeat. For many of us the only way to avoid that sting is to avoid the risk altogether; to play it safe; to never leave the harbor and face the chance of a storm.  It is easier, yes…safer, sure…self-serving, absolutely…a path to betterment, never! Improvement comes after the mistake; it comes in the lessons learned; it comes in the failure; it comes because of weathering the storm.

What an important lesson! How do we teach this to the students we serve?  How do we celebrate mistakes as an important part of learning, not as the opposite of learning? How do we create a safe environment that gives students the ability to make mistakes where the lessons learned will be used to make everyone better?

These are difficult questions to answer, but they are questions worth investing the time. As we wind down one semester and look to starting a new one, this is my challenge to you.  Find ways to make your classroom, your school, and your home a place where mistakes are valued. Rejoice in the mess created by things not going right.  Use it as something that makes us better, not something that limits our success.


No matter what happens, identify and own your mistakes. Much like my friend Jon Harper has asked of us, share your mistakes, own your mistakes, celebrate your mistakes for what they are and how they have helped you become better at different aspects of life. Whether a mistake is because of your shortcomings or not, grab a hold of the part you can control and use it to improve yourself. Mistakes are made…you can deny that they happen or own them. Only one of those two options will help you. Make it a great mistake, or not, the choice is yours!

Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!

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