Make no mistake about your mistakes

Think about this. When you were a child still learning how to walk, how many times did you fall before learning to stand straight? How many times did you fall before being able to ride your bicycle for more than a minute without falling? If you had opted not to fall, could you have still opted to stand or to ride the bicycle?

Sorry, there are no shortcuts to success. You learn swimming by swimming only. And making mistakes is a part and parcel of the process of learning. Making mistakes is nothing but finding out ways which simply dont work. When Edison’s initial 10000 experiments failed before he finally succeeded in inventing the electric bulb, instead of calling them failures he said, “I have simply found 10000 ways which wont work”.

And hence, DO NOT look at failure as a failure, instead look at it as a step towards success. Infact a success itself is not an end either. Each success is a milestone. There is always a next milestone to be reached. And there are steps of about a mile long between two successes. These steps are nothing but failures. So there is no shortcut to success. Infact there is no shortcut to any place worth going!

What is the difference between a mistake and a failure? Well, mistake is what you do – the cause, and failure is the outcome of that mistake – the effect. But at the same time it is the failure which many a times, infact most of the times is the cause for another well sought after effect – success.

So what do you need to convert your failure into success. Simple. Learn from it. For there are no mistakes made in life, there are only lessons learnt, provided you dont repeat your mistakes. Atleast repeat it differently. Life does not give a second chance many a times. At least not when skydiving. If you dont succeed in the first attempt, then skydiving is definitely not for you :)

Did any of your friends tell you that they haven’t done any mistake at all? Well, yes it is possible, provided they have never tried anything new. If you have done no mistakes in the past 2 years, then you have wasted two precious years of your life. Now be cautious, making a mistake is not the same as making a crime. Mistake is what you make without knowing that you are making a mistake. You are not aware of the outcome and are trying out an action whose outcome goes against your expectations, and then it becomes a mistake. Where as a crime is making a mistake, very well knowing about it.

So if I dont know that a person will be hurt if I slap him, then is that a crime or a mistake? Well, by the definition of law it is a crime, but if you are so novice that you need a law to tell you that it is a mistake, then you are simply not fit to make any mistakes. For your mistakes will be too costly for you :)

Now there is so much to learn in this world that I will need a hundred lives to make all the mistakes on my own and learn from them! So please do learn from others mistakes also. The best place to learn this would be to read autobiographies of great, the not so great, of all kind of personalities. Because, each autobiography contains details of a life term of mistakes in it! Autobiographies of people like Adolf Hitler – Mein Kempf – contain mistakes that didnt work – a billion people suffered from that. Autobiographies of people like Mahatma Gandhi – My Experiments with Truth – contains mistakes that did work – that made a billion people follow commands of a single man – a man who was half naked and had nothing except for the stick in his hand.

Did somebody tell you that his views about the world have not changed in the past twenty years? Then, either he has experienced every damn thing in this world 20 years ago, or he has never learnt anything new in the past 20 years. The former is a rare case, and most possibly it is the latter. As we gain more experience in life, so do our views keep changing. In fact changing would be an inappropriate term for that. In reality our views would be upgrading or updating, for better or worse depending on our surroundings – friends and family – and the events that we encounter. A misguided youth might become a terrorist from an innocent teenager – or the same person might become a well known scientist – all depending on what happened to him and how he reacted to what happened to him.

But again, ideology is different from our views. We can stick to our ideology without changing it, and that is definitely possible. I can stick for my lifetime to an ideology of saving this beautiful nature from man-made pollution and to prevent the life on this planet from becoming extinct due to man-made havocs. But my views on how to achieve that will keep changing constantly as the scope of my experience widens.

So mistakes are like a feedback loop. They give feedback about our actions that are not worth being repeated. It is a process of learning – learning how not to walk by walking incorrectly, learning how not to ride by driving wrongly, learning how not to solve a calculus problem by using a wrong formulae, and in the process of making mistakes, understanding how things function. There are no experts on this planets who havent made mistakes. And the greatest experts on this planet are those who have made the largest number of mistakes, and hence have become experts by knowing all those ways which do not work, and hence which they will not try again. A Gary Kasporov or a Vishwanathan Anand became world chess champions by making almost all those wrong moves prior to achieving that title.

When we are born our brain is an empty database. And it is the mistakes that we make that enable us to gather the information that we feed into our brain. Mistakes are not just limited to a single person. A family, a society, a country, all learn from their mistakes. The reason we brush in the morning, the reason we take bath, the reason we follow traffic rules, the reason our country has an army, the reason we use passwords, the reason we have a democratic system, the reason stock market goes down, the reason for a powercut, the reason UN came into existence, each of these have a history of past lessons which the generations, people, societies, nations have learnt from their past mistakes. History hence, should not be merely treated as just the past, but should be looked upon as lessons from the past. And it applies not just for human history, but for individual history as well.

While your success shows you your strength. Your failures reveal your weakness to you. And hence recognize your weakness from your failures. Its more important than knowing your strength.

Larry Ellison had no hesitation in admitting that he lacked the necessary skills to run a large sales force and a large service organization. When he saw that his weakness in administrating Oracle’s sales force resulted in Oracle losing $12 million in 1991, he simply appointed Ray Lane (whom he discovered with the help of head hunters) as the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Oracle in 1992 and handed over to him all the responsibilities of reorganizing Oracle’s sales force, rebuilding the service operations and introducing strict management processes in Oracle. Larry Ellison limited himself to what he knew he was really good at – to build new products and to articulate the company’s vision. The result – Oracle has not looked back since then.

Steve Jobbs, the Apple CEO, had no hesitation that Apple’s success needed its arch rival Microsoft’s cooperation, and hence by saying “Apple has to move beyond the point of view that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose” Jobs invited Bill Gates without hesitation to acquire $150 million stake in Apple and to enter its Board of Directors. Not everybody can do that. You should be really brave to give up on your false egos. Giving up on our false ego is the best way to correct our mistakes without having to make them in the first place. Even though SAP and Oracle are fierce competitors in the ERP space, SAP still uses Oracle’s database as the backend for its enterprise suite. And that’s because SAP knows its strength and where to concentrate. It has no business building databases. Its simply not their pie. False egos prevent us from realising our weakness and from utilising our strengths.

It is not the number of failures that we should be worried about. It should be the quality of our attempts that we should be looking at irrespective of whether we fail or succeed. Look at a spider. No matter how many times we destroy its web, it doesnt get angry, it doesnt cry, it doesnt give up, it simply starts building a new web again from scratch. Now that has a great lesson in it. Never give up and always be prepared to start your life from scratch. Which is why Abraham Lincoln, the great American president succeeded in entering the white house, inspite of all his past failures .

Getting to the top is not difficult, what is really difficult is continuing to be at the top. And to be there you should be aware of your strengths and weaknesses equally, and should be willing to give up your false ego and take calculated risks.

And again finally, please dont mistake a crime to be a mistake. When you know that what you are doing is wrong ,and yet do it, then it is no mistake, it is simply a crime, irrespective of whether legally it is a crime or not. Nobody knows you better than your self. Be answerable to your self and you will succeed in life. You dont have to be answerable to anybody else.

All the mistakes are waiting to be made. Good Luck.

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