I was recently facilitating a sales training workshop and talking about the importance of adapting the right opening technique to develop a relationship with a prospect. As we debated the challenges a sales person is prone to meet and how the appropriate opening technique sets an experienced sales person ahead of the pack; one of the team asked me how they will know the right approach to use? You must be willing to make mistakes, I respond, the real difference between an experienced person and an inexperienced one is the pile of mistakes upon which they are elevated.
The world we live in is really an imperfect world, complete with a multitude of imperfect solutions put together by imperfect men. Knowing that we are from a stock that is prone to so much error, it is only evident that making mistakes will be very much part of a human lifestyle. However, not only are we prone to mistakes but I also see that it is in making mistakes that we really do learn, gain experience and develop.
John Maxwell in his book, Failing Forward, writes that if we look long enough for what we want in life we are almost sure to find it. Success is in the journey, the continual process. And no matter how hard you work, you will not create the perfect plan or execute it without error. You will never get to the point that you no longer make mistakes, that you no longer fail. If one is to look for the single common factor in all success stories and persons, it will be the common thread of a building block of mistakes leading up to the success. Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire has his own trail of regrets despite the success we see today, being market leader meant that he had to face the mounting challenge of meeting expectations of a changing culture. Bill Gates expressed this perfectly when he said your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
The Creator also has use for mistakes in using men to fulfill His purposes in this world. God’s line up of Generals has no shortage of bummers; Moses’s first brave attempt to save the Jews, proved to be the grave mistake that forced him into exile from Egypt, eventually driving him into God’s presence and the greatest manifestations of God’s power until Jesus Christ. David’s over-confidence in his military might led to an idle afternoon on the palace roof tops, a lustful indecent proposal that snow-balled into murder and finally by His Grace a union blessed with the wisest man and builder of the great temple. When the then atheist investigative journalist Lee Strobel found out that his wife became Christian, he set out to write a book to disprove the Gospel; unfortunately the evidence he found only led to one of the most amazing modern Christian apologetic books, the case for Christ.
Jesus recognized that rising from the despair of error, humbles a man and strengthens him for leadership. Knowing that Peter would fall at the throes of temptation, Jesus focused on the beneficial character that will be born from this and encouraged Peter saying, “.., but I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren“.
In Uganda, our public transport vans, called matatus, usually inscribe interesting quotes on the rear windshield, of the many that will bring a smile to my face one of my favorite is “Your best teacher was your last mistake”. I see that a clear evidence of stagnation in a life, family or business is that they no longer show the scourges from mistakes.
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