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Tag: making mistakes



ARGH!  Making a dumb mistake.  Could anything be worse than that?

Making stupid mistakes tends to leave you red-faced and embarrassed.  You trip on an uneven stepping stone because you were running down a muddy path in the dark, and you slip and take a header.

Bunged-up knees, scraped shins, bruises, and assorted bumps and lumps are the prizes that remind you of the dumbness of you.  You already know you’re not supposed to go careening off in the dark, so all you’ve done is validate a fact already known to you.  There is no lesson learned, only one reiterated.  Again.

Everybody around you sighs (or laughs) at the latest pratfall.  Everybody agrees it’s “only human.”  (It isn’t so bad unless you’re the human who made the error.)


But, then, there are the other kinds of mistakes.  The interesting ones, the ones that test your perceived limits and leads you to scratch your head and say, “Huh?  How did that happen?  Can I repeat it?  What can I do with it?”

You need an example?  Okay.  Did you know that brownies are failed chocolate cakes?

Brownies by lauraklehmann via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
 Way back when some baker made a big mistake and ended up with a flat, chocolate cookie instead of a tall, glorious cake.  Since there wasn’t anything else for dessert, the cook served it up anyway. Foodies went wild.  Now bakers make brownies deliberately, repeating the original error (and expanding on it) to our great pleasure.

Neil Gaiman is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and film.  His notable works include the comic book series THE SANDMAN, a legendary series that one reviewer said “changed the landscape of modern comics” as well as novels like STARDUST, AMERICAN GODS, CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. 

I have grown fond of Gaiman’s thoughts.  My favorite quote from the guy is this one:  “Go and make interesting mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes.  Leave the world more interesting for your being here.  Make Good Art.”

Hear, hear, Neil….

My own thought is, since I am going to be making mistakes anyhow, it’s a lot more fun when they are interesting ones.


In this YouTube video, “What Do Mistakes Reveal About Human Nature,” by Big Think, Harvard  psychologist and writer Dan Gilbert talks about how the mistakes we make are the result of “arguments” between our right and left brains.  Gilbert is fascinated by the whole thing.

Gilbert’s best-selling book, STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS, presents example after example of human foibles and delusions that arise out of the way our human brains are structured.


And then there’s American businessman, Roy H. Williams, who wrote a trilogy of books about the Wizard of Ads.”  Williams spent a quarter of a century studying on why folks do what they do.  He used the empirical knowledge he gained to help his small business clients grow their businesses rapidly and well.

Williams’ tip is this:  “A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.”

Here’s a poem….




Here I am….

Backed up against life and being.

All the world and its cares press on me,

Jostling against my bubble,

Demanding that I answer

That ultimate question,

The one Big G asked Adam

When he was hiding under

All those bushes in the Garden

After That Woman and her friend, the Snake,

MADE him bite into that apple-thing.

(Really, they did.

It was all, all, all their fault.

Ask Adam.)


The question?



That question still echoes

Down through the ages.

The Dude’s come looking for you,

And, boy, is HE gonna be pissed.

You had one job…ONE JOB…

And you blew it!

The Epic Fail to the Max.

That’s when THAT question

Thunders down from the sky:



You’re Adam, okay?

And you hear THAT.

So you try to make yourself small.

You try, try, try to go unnoticed,

Tick-tocking your way

Through your boring, meaningless routines –

Sorting and stacking leaves and shit,

Organizing the hell out of those messy trees,

Beating up on all the critters,

Trying to line up all those ducks just right,

Trying to make those silly chipmunks

Stop fooling around…

And you know The Big Guy’s waiting.


And it comes again, that question:




Can’t put it off any longer.

(It’s not a real good idea

To ignore The Dude, ya know.

Maybe, maybe, maybe…)






Oh, wow!

Now, he’s really mad!


Here goes…

H-h-h-here I am…



Ya know what happened next.


So, yup, uh-huh,

Here I am,

Backed up against life and being…again.

Just another in a long line of dummies

Caught in the act of failing

To make the prescribed, mandated move

Imposed from on high,

On the verge of getting kicked out of

Yet another garden,

Designed and organized by some Almighty or other.


And ya know what?

It occurs to me that

I am HERE,

At the start of yet another adventure,

At the beginning of one more history…

A true descendant of the lineage of Adam.

By Netta Kanoho
Picture credit:  Mistakes…by Chris and Karen Highland via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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One of the most fun books I have read recently is Melanie Rothschild’s THE ART OF MISTAKES:  Unexpected Painting Techniques and the Practice of Creative Thinking.

In it she makes a most insightful comment:   “Creativity is not just about art.  Sometimes it has nothing at all to do with art.  Creativity is about how we think, the possibilities we allow into our thinking and our ability to follow through with action.  In just about anything we do, we can think creatively or not.”

And that IS the thing, you know.  Even something as mundane as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be a creative endeavor…or not.

One of the best aids to creativity, I find, is hanging with other people who think playing around with possibilities is fun and who actually work at trying to make something out of nothing as a matter of course.  The more people you have around you who are busy living ordinary lives in extraordinary ways, the more likely it is that you will be inclined to do it too.  There is nothing quite like being surrounded by other Makers.

The video that follows is a marvelous example of the possibilities that can become real when people play with possibilities.  It’s about what happened when people who live in a slum built on a garbage heap decided to give their children music….

And here’s another poem….


You ask.

I answer.

I do not know much…

almost nothing at all.


But, I walk the same road you tread.

I’ve gone down in flames

and struggled up again.

It continues…the story does not end with you or me.


Here I stand.

no longer whole,

bent in odd ways,

no longer shining quite so brightly. 


It doesn’t matter, you know


The game goes on –

the game of light and shadow.


And we are the ones who can choose

to find the balance

in the roiling chaos

that makes and remakes this World of Dust.


We are the favored children of the Universe,

and in our dream and our stories,

in our Making and un-Making,

it is we who dare to dance between Heaven and Earth.


We are the ones who challenge

and we the ones who go down in defeat.

It is we who rise up again…

and again…and again…

until we no longer can.


And somewhere in all of that,

some of us get to fly,

some of us touch the stars.


Shoots!  We go….

By Netta Kanoho

picture credit:  Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich (with ketchup as jelly) by Elizabeth Lloyd via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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