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99's On the Go
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Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2016 Brian Remer
Updated Mar. 2016
99's on the 9th
based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.
Oops! Go ahead and make a mistake.
Last month I wrote about the importance of asking stupid questions and ended by asking one myself. Click here to see some answers that I received.
Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.
The car kept moving so I couldn't ask the driver what her license plate, "NOMSTKS," meant. It must mean "No Mistakes." Curious; is this advice? "Don't goof up!" Is it boasting? "I never blunder!" Is it a promise? "Not on my watch!" Is it regret? "I wish I hadn't!"
Maybe this is a vegetarian, "No more steaks!"
Was the misspelling itself a mistake? Too bad for the missing vowels. Perhaps it really means "No Mystics," and I should stop asking philosophical questions!
It's difficult to learn from a mistake if we don't stop, ask, and consider its meaning.
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.
"Go ahead and make a mistake."
When was the last time someone told you that? Probably neither recently nor often!
Generally, mistakes are to be avoided. We would rather focus on success. After all, why put the effort into doing something and not have it turn out the way you had hoped?
The sad thing is that mistakes do happen. Sometimes they are even unavoidable. So, since we run into them occasionally, there is a lot to be gained by examining our errors. Of course, we can learn from them. In fact, mistake-making is inherent in all learning.
But what about the complex ideas that we seldom consider when we make a mistake? The 99-Word Story suggests several reactions to making generic goof-ups that might be going on behind the scenes and in our own heads.
- Advice about mistakes:
- Make mistakes and you'll get in trouble
- Your reputation will be damaged
- You'll hurt someone
- You'll waste time and money
- You'll break social and ethical norms
- Your error will be irreversible (the domino effect)
- Boasting about blunders:
- I'm better than everyone else
- I'm always right
- Never question what I do
- I might take unnecessary risks
- I am deluded (a personal mistake in itself!)
- Promises about gaffes:
- I am reliable
- I'm invincible
- I believe I can control all situations
- Regrets about slip-ups:
- I am guilty
- I need forgiveness or acceptance
- I'm untrustworthy
- I'm a bad person
Admittedly, there may be times when giving advice, boasting, promising, or being regretful with regard to mistakes is valid. But I've made a list here of the negative responses to mistake-making. These responses cloud our perceptions. They prevent us from taking reasonable risks. They distract us from what needs to be accomplished. They lead to frozen reactions and procrastination. When a mistake has been made, these negative perceptions can result in a frenzied scramble of damage control that only emphasizes the perceived problem and distracts people from more important work.
What we lose when we succumb to the negative associations of a mistake is any perspective of the big picture. We misplace any sense of whether the mistake is worth the mental and emotional energy we are investing in it. After all, some mistakes turn out to be much less significant than we thought. Sometimes they even solve themselves.
There are plenty of proverbs, platitudes, and bromides about mistakes. But accepting this type of easy advice is like watching a car full of important people speeding into the distance. The answers are gone before we've had time to formulate the critical questions: What do we fear about making mistakes? What's the big picture and how does perfection fit into that? What's my personal philosophy and perspective about making mistakes? What do mistakes mean to me?
Maybe our biggest error about goof-ups is in trying to reduce our complex relationship with mistake-making to a bumper sticker.
Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.
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