What Name do you Claim for your Mistakes?


"We all make mistakes, but the important thing is not to make the same one twice." So concluded the news article about Australian politics. In the context of mistakes and their magnitude, the reference was to a relatively minor one, but the advice remains popular.

However, long time subscribers will be well aware of our contrary view that there are almost no skills a person can develop without making repeated mistakes. It is said that gymnasts need to practice a move over 10,000 times before they can consider themselves to be masters of that move!


Mistakes, and their consequences, have been newsworthy in the sports and business world this year. From the cyclist Lance Armstrong publically admitting his, to the silence of the Rio Tinto executives who by 'mutual agreement' will be leaving to, no doubt, contemplate theirs.


"Rio Chief is Shown the Door after One Mistake too Many" was the international headline about Rio Tinto's major asset write downs. This raises the question of how many mistakes are acceptable, what types of mistakes, and in what context?

Babies learn only from their mistakes, the more they make the more they learn; but growth, age, education and context change all that. Many people are punished as they grow for making mistakes, so they become 'mistake-averse'; this is a very dangerous and limiting strategy in a world that is changing so rapidly, a world that requires constant development of new skills!


Making mistakes with your money is your affair; making mistakes with other people's is not. When that money is invested in a publicly-listed company, its impact can be severe and diverse; from major investment funds to Mum & Dad's superannuation.


Most business analysts concluded that one major mistake by a CEO was enough, and depending on the circumstances could be accepted, if not forgiven. When Rio Tinto's latest US$4 billion acquisition became a US$3 billion mistake, they agreed that enough really was enough.


So is there a distinction? What types of mistakes can be repeated?

Our view is this: 'skill mistakes' can and need to be repeated, 'attitude mistakes' must not be repeated. And the key to a poor attitude is a lack of passion.

A mistake can be sobering antidote; a medicine best taken to develop and maintain a healthy learning experience. Do not unnecessarily repeat the dose through a poor attitude and learn little.


How you view your mistakes will depend on how often you take the medicine.



"Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes."

Oscar Wilde (1854--1900), Irish playwright, writer and poet.


What name do you give to your mistakes; does learning claim the title?


"Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment."

Jim Roche, (1911-2002), Co-founder of Roche Bros Mining, an Australian success story.


Is your experience limited through your fear of exercising bad judgment?


Charles Kovess CSP



Charles Kovess CSP is a lawyer, successful businessman, professional speaker and passion provocateur.

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