I made a mistake. Actually I've made about a million.

Mistakes. They are the bane of our existence, right? I mean they are the reason projects fall apart. They are the reason we don't get the job. They are the reason the love of our lives rejected us. If we could just turn away from mistakes then everything would be peachy keen like a jelly bean, right? 

Wrong. Come on. You had to know that was coming. The post can't be over after seventy-five words. 

This is the prevailing logic of most humans and it's one of the main things holding us back from succeeding. You see, mistakes aren't the reason we fail. They are the reason we eventually succeed. 

Let me tell you a story about babies. 

I was recently at my sister's house, hanging out with my 15-month-old nephew. He's adorable, energetic, and fearless. I watched him pull himself up on a banister a dozen times and fall on his butt every single one. Everybody else was scared stiff he would hurt himself, but he was having a ball failing miserably. 

I watched him open every drawer in their house and bang on every pan until his ears hurt. I watched him touch every noisy button he could find until he started crying. I watched him play with blocks and fail to get them to fit together...until he did.

That kid was failing HARD and loving every minute of it. Failure didn't matter to him. Thing is, he'd been failing hard at everything since he was born. First, he couldn't roll over. Then, he couldn't sit up. Then, he couldn't crawl. Eventually, he mastered all of those things by trying and failing. 

Last time I saw him he was crawling. He was crawling his little butt off unable to stand even if he wanted. In the intervening months since I left, that all changed. 

The kid went from unable to stand to wobbling for a few seconds, to toddling around the house like a terror. It's really amazing if you think about it, just how much failure went into something so simple that we take for granted. 

Yes, he had to grow his strength and develop his motor skills so he was able to walk, but he also had to try walking a hundred times before he figured it out once he had the skills. 

Which is how we've worked from the beginning of our existence. It's how all things have worked from the beginning of time eternal for all animals. We mistake our way into success. 

We don't think about this much once we're grown, but failure and mistakes are what made us great. They are why we know not to touch hot stoves and how we know 2+2=4. The mistakes set up back at first, but they also leaped us forward. 

Then, somewhere along the line we got it in our heads that mistakes were bad. Maybe it was in high school when grades mattered to get into college. Maybe it was in college when we went to get a job. Maybe it was in that first job when mistakes could cost us a raise or get us fired . 

I don't know where it was, but somewhere most of us decided risks were bad because mistakes were unconscionable. But we forget that the only reason we even got the job in the first place was because of a million mistakes we made along the way. We forget the hundred horrible job interviews and the million problems we got wrong in school. 

We forget that the only reason we are any good at something now is because we sucked at it and that we only got good because we kept doing it until mastered it. It was that way with walking, riding a bike, driving a car, and whatever work it is you do now. 

I see it in my own life for sure. Every time I master something I systematize it and then I find something else to learn. You would think because I'm great at one thing I would be immediately great at that other thing day one, right? 


I suck at it for a long while. I end up making tons of mistakes. The kind of mistakes I used to think were horrific. But you know what? Those mistakes end up fading over time and I end up being pretty great at that new thing too. 

Then I master it, systematize it, and fail at another thing. And another. And another. Even the things I never get great at end up teaching me so much that the experience was worth it. I ended up as a better person and more capable workers by realizing mistakes and failure aren't the enemy.

Which brings me to my point. If you want to be an entrepreneur, or even just a well-rounded person, failure is part of the game. Mistakes are part of the game. Staying idle isn't going to move your forward, and in this world of rapid change, it's increasingly dangerous not to constantly learn. 

So I urge you to come to terms with your mistakes and understand they molded you into who you are today. If you want to learn. If you want to grow. If you want to be great at something, you have to understand that failure and mistakes are part of the game. 

You can't fail forever, but you have to make mistakes to succeed. 

Russell Nohelty is a writer, publisher, and consultant. He runs Wannabe Press (www.wannabepress.com) and hosts The Business of Art podcast (www.thebusinessofart.us)