In 1977 I immigrated to the United States and first heard the classic Sesame Street song Everyone Makes Mistakes. I’d quote it here, except my teacher Jerry Weinberg told us the following in his writing workshop. “Never, never, never, quote the lyrics from any song in your published writing.”
So I’ll take the coward’s way out and link to a video.
It was a shock to me to learn that everyone makes mistakes. In the hot-house competitive educational atmosphere of the 50’s and 60’s in England, I believed my smartness determined my self-worth. It had been drummed into me that smart people didn’t make mistakes. So I felt shock when Big Bird told my three year-old daughter that it was OK to make mistakes. Everyone did it! Up until that afternoon, with the voice of Big Bird issuing from the scratchy record player, I had felt embarrassed when anyone discovered that I didn’t know the answer to something I thought should have known.
It took me a while to get over this shame, which, I’ve discovered, many people experience. If you are one of them, listen to Big Bird’s message and read Chapters 13 and 15 of Jerry’s “Becoming a Technical Leader.” (Heck, read the whole book—it’s that good!)
Eventually, of course, I found out that giving yourself the freedom to make mistakes is a gift to yourself. The gift of freedom to explore new possibilities for your life and work. That’s why the environment at every peer conference encourages and supports making mistakes—an important way for us to learn and grow.