Admitting mistakes and learning from them

When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it”. ~ Paul Bear Bryant


It is easier said than done right? How do you just admit that you were wrong about something? What about your ego? Well, burying your head in the sand is not going to help either. As human beings, mistakes are inevitable and sometimes necessary. This is how we grow, learn and progress in life.


I used to be so hard on myself when I made mistakes; so hard that I missed out on getting the valuable lessons from these mistakes. I would condemn myself to the level where I almost had to start loving myself again. I would talk to myself about how disappointing my behaviour or actions were and how I let myself down. A good example of this was when I had just started working and as a Management Consultant based at client sites there was a lot to juggle at the same time. I had just been seconded on a project and obviously as a junior that time, I had a lot to learn. On this particular project, one of my roles was to compile all analysis work that was done and send it to the Project Manager for feedback. This one time, instead of sending the report to the PM, I accidentally sent it directly to the client. The sad part was not even noticing at the time the mistake I had done. It was late at night and I was really exhausted so I went straight to bed after sending the email. It was only in the morning when I got to the office that I got to know what I had done and the impact thereof. I just wished that I could disappear into thin air and be rescued from this debacle. After eventually forgiving myself and reflecting objectively on what happened, I got to receive the key lessons from this experience and applied them in my life going forward.


Mistakes are inevitable and so we cannot always be harsh on ourselves each time we commit them. Let’s take the process of learning how to ride a bicycle for example. At first, your parent or sibling or friend would hold you on the bike; guide you and teach you the tips and rules. Then they slowly let go and allowed you to try on your own. What happened the first time you were on your own? Great chances are that you made some mistakes right? But you quickly learnt not to repeat them again. You actually learnt from your mistakes. So, how then do you expect that in your adult life you will not make mistakes before you learn the lesson? In most cases, this is the only way you learn. The only problems with mistakes are not admitting them and then secondly not learning from them.


People generally easily forgive you when you admit your mistake and take responsibility for it. It is when you try to cover it up and run from it that makes you lose credibility and respect. There is so much power in acknowledging your faults and apologising where the outcome of your mistakes might have hurt others or caused damage. As a leader, it takes courage and emotional maturity to admit it when you have made a blunder. It is by no means a sign of weakness but it actually shows sincerity and increases respect from others. It is important that you carefully analyse your mistake and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Growth and development will automatically take place as soon as you recognise and take responsibility for your mistakes. It is an incredible process and especially in the future when you realise that you are about to make the same mistake but you quickly refrain from it because you have learnt the valuable lessons in the past. Refuse to hinder your learning process and growth path by making excuses and passing the buck. Own your faults, learn from them and move on.


Thato’s nuggets on learning from mistakes:

  • Take responsibility for your actions – never run away from it
  • Determine the cause of your mistakes
  • Be accountable for the results
  • Take ownership of your mistakes
  • Be courageous enough to learn from them and then apply lessons

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ~ Albert Einstein


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I'm passionate about people development and helping them unlock their potential. I love interacting with people from all walks of life, I love sharing stories and learning from others. Through these stories we create meaning in life and become better versions of ourselves!

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