More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them

“More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.”

—Dan Sullivan, founder and president of The Strategic Coach Inc.

Image from DailyCaring

Having a bias for being right and making others wrong seems to be one of the fundamental challenges facing the majority of people throughout history. Although most of us prefer to consider ourselves self-aware and open-minded, we often fall into the trap of seeing the mistakes of others far more often than viewing our own shortcomings.

Instead of closing our eyes to our own responsibilities for certain failures, what if we could shift our perspective from one of embarrassment and shame to one of learning and growth? How would this support the courage it takes to be vulnerable in those moments we fall short in our efforts?


Where and on what life issue are you, or perhaps someone you know, in denial about a significant mistake? What would be the benefit if you or they would more frequently embrace the life changing magic and important lessons in such situations?

Creativity is Inventing

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, risk-taking, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.”

—Mary Lou Cook, late Peace Activist

During the Personal Excellence Workshop that begins each of my coaching programs, my clients list their personal strengths. I am somewhat surprised that less than half of them include creativity in their list.

When prompted about their level of creativity, they humbly deflect, stating things like, “On Occasion / Not Really,” or “That is why I do _____ for a living.”

I suggest that we all are far more creative than we believe and that we all create our lives each and every day, for better or for worse.


How can you take Mary Lou Cook’s coaching to increase your daily level of inventing, experimenting, risk-taking, rule breaking, and mistake making to expand your creative capacity and make your life a lot more fun?

Friday Review: Mistakes


How do you view the mistakes you have made? Here are a few mistake-related posts you may have missed. Click the links to read the full message.

“We should learn from the mistakes of others. We don’t have time to make them all ourselves.”





“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually be afraid you will make one.”




“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”





Thorn of Experience

“One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.”

—James Russell Lowell, 20th Century American poet, critic, and diplomat

Image from Flickr by Taro Taylor

Image from Flickr by Taro Taylor

Perhaps the single most significant reason the coaching profession has grown to over a $2 billion industry is the fact that it focuses a great degree on experiential learning. Although there is still a substantial value in telling and showing, it seems the stickiness and sustainability of the lesson comes from experiencing things firsthand, where we actually get on the field, run a few plays, and see what happens.


Where and how can you include far more experiential learning opportunities to help you progress even further in your life?

“Your best teacher…”

“Your best teacher is your last mistake.”

—Ralph Nader, American political activist

Image from

Image from

I’d like to alter Nader’s quote by changing the word “mistake” to “experience.”

Perhaps one of the reasons the coaching profession has grown so rapidly over the last two decades is that it takes place on the field of our lives through experiential learning.

It is our own self-awareness and self-reflection regarding the experience of our mistakes, setbacks, progress, and victories that can be our most brilliant teachers.


Take five minutes at the end of the day today to examine what worked, what didn’t, and why. What did you learn? What new and different actions will you take based on these lessons?

“The life you have led doesn’t…”

“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.”

—Anna Quindlen, American author and journalist

QC #788photo from

One of my favorite movies is Ground Hog Day with Bill Murray. I always laugh as he lives February 2nd over and over again.

Through countless chances, he tends to make many of the same mistakes over and over, which leaves him in the same place as the previous day.

Eventually, he learns that his future can be altered for the better.  By choosing actions that are consistent with his commitment, he takes new and better actions that lead him to a different future, where in the end, of course, he “gets the girl.”


Take the time today to examine the life you have lived and determine what you wish to continue and what you wish to change. Select a close friend, family member, mentor, or coach to examine what you discover. Consider developing a plan over at least 90 days, to make the coming years more fulfilling and remarkable.

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”

-James Joyce, Irish Novelist and Poet

Photo from Flickr by Don McCullough

Photo from Flickr by Don McCullough

Many years ago I attended a presentation by Benjamin Zander, who, along with his wife, authored “The Art of Possibility”.

At the time, he was also the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, where he worked with and literally orchestrated the talents of some of the finest young musicians in the world.

His presentation was light, joyful, and even a bit zany. Of particular note was his suggestion that instead of trying to always do things perfectly, we allow and delight in the learning that can occur from making occasional mistakes.

He coaches his proteges and helps them joyfully discover and learn from the mistakes along their artful journey toward musical mastery.


How can you bring your own lighthearted and even playful fascination to the efforts and mistakes you make on a daily basis to expand your own portals of personal and professional discovery?

“Just because you’ve made mistakes doesn’t mean your mistakes get to make you.”

“Just because you’ve made mistakes doesn’t mean your mistakes get to make you. Take notice of your inner critic, forgive yourself, and move on.”

– Robert Tew465Image from Flickr by tuchodi.

A critical task in a coaching relationship is to significantly increase each client’s self-awareness. The phrase “wherever you go, there you are” sums it up pretty well.

You can never get away from yourself, and in many circumstances, the person you carry around with you can be a significant detractor from your own self-worth, effectiveness and overall well-being.

We as humans make mistakes all the time – that’s often how we learn and grow. Robert Tew suggests that these mistakes simply be noticed and that we move on and not labor the point.


The next time your “self-awareness muscle” spots a mistake, do as Tew suggests. Notice your inner critic, forgive yourself, and move on.

Consider partnering with a coach, mentor, friend, family member or work colleague to help you with this.

The greatest mistake you can make

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually be afraid you will make one.”

– Elbert Hubbard, writer, artist and philosopher

In the assessment process I undertake prior to each coaching agreement, I pay particular attention to the challenges and obstacles that may be limiting my client’s success.

We do identify many external factors that aren’t always in their control, yet it is surprising to discover the numerous internal barriers that limit their success and overall life satisfaction. Among these internal obstacles is the often crippling fear of making a mistake and failing, which often prevents them from even trying something new.


Where (specifically) are you stopped by the fear of making a mistake or failing? Find a coach, friend, family member, or mentor to help you summon the courage to work through these fears.

Sometimes, it is helpful to use the acronym “FEAR” which stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Feel free to reply to me with your insights and the actions you plan to take.

learn from the mistakes of others

 “We should learn from the mistakes of others. We don’t have time to make them all ourselves.”

– Groucho Marx, comedian

A few weeks ago, I was watching a video interview of Rich Roll by Jonathan Fields as part of his Good Life Project. Roll is a top Ultra-man competitor who is considered one of the fittest men in the world.

It wasn’t always this way. In his earlier life, Rich was a drug addict and alcoholic. Through his own story and miraculous turn around, he has inspired thousands of people to pursue greater health and vitality through dramatic dietary changes and intensive exercise.


Examine the lives of people you know personally and professionally to see what lessons you could use to live a more fulfilling life. What positive behaviors will you emulate and which mistakes will you definitely avoid?