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Embrace Your Mistakes

Embrace Your Mistakes

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error! –
That I had a beehive
Here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
Were making white combs
And sweet honey
From my old failures.

– Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly

I hate making errors. Especially difficult is receiving negative feedback. It’s so hard to believe that everyone doesn’t love me, and love everything that I do. What can they be thinking? This was a really good week for me in the realm of receiving difficult feedback.

This poem reminds me of a quote from a card I published at Brush Dance: “My life is one learning experience after another. By the end of the week I should be a genius.”

And to think — I teach the value of failure. In my workshops I sometimes have everyone throw their arms in the air, and shout, “I failed,” with joy, with letting go. And yet, a little negative feedback can bring me down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and self-judgment.

Then, I read the above poem by Antonia Machado, Spanish poet, born in 1875. Though my own judge and critic remained, I could feel myself expand, widen, and lighten. My questions transformed from “How could I have done this?” to “What can I learn from this feedback?”

Some things I’m learning from this poem:
- Don’t chase away failure; embrace them
- When receiving difficult feedback, expand and lighten
- Listen to your heart; let pain and difficulty widen your heart

What can you learn from your “mistakes” and your “failures”?

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Marc Lesser

Marc Lesser is CEO of ZBA Associates LLC, a company providing executive coaching, leadership development consulting, and keynote speaking services to businesses and non-profits. He is a developer and instructor of Google’s Search Inside Yourself program. Marc is a Zen teacher with an MBA degree and a former resident of the San Francisco Zen Center for 10 years. He is the author of Less: Accomplishing More By Doing Less and Z.B.A. Zen of Business Administration.

53 comments

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3:43PM PDT on Jun 11, 2013

Saved this Beautiful Poem. Thank you for sharing.

8:08AM PST on Feb 2, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

5:15AM PST on Dec 19, 2012

Thanks.

12:18AM PDT on Jul 29, 2012

Great article, thanks for sharing

8:10AM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

thanks

9:59AM PST on Feb 13, 2012

thanks--a great reminder.

11:27AM PST on Nov 9, 2011

I liked the poem very much! I'm not brilliant at embracing my mistakes (would need very long arms...) but am learning to allow myself to be rubbish at things, and to get better - there's a sort of freedom in that. Julia Cameron's very good on this sort of thing in The Artist's Way.

8:46PM PDT on Jun 12, 2011

When we have failed in a relationship or anything else, it is such a waste of our precious resources to blame somebody else.

I can not change anyone but myself. Thank God, I can change myself.

I go into a quiet time where I examine my memories of what happened. I look for where I messed up. Where did I make foolish choices? How could I have better handled the situation?
What can I learn from it?

Never mind what the other person did. I can't do anything about that.

No, I can't stuff it! That just intensifies the resentment and the anger, which are natural. If I can find a safe person to talk to, I talk it out. Most of us when upset just need someone to talk to who will listen and give us the right to feel the way we naturally do....angry, guilty, hurt. Those are human feelings and I am human.

I talk to my Higher Power about it.

In the Psalms, David freely expressed how he felt and what he wanted to happen to his enemies. He got it off his chest. And then he got back on the positive track. "Be not disquieted, oh my Soul. I will yet praise HIM."

If I need to make amends, I do so as quickly as I can. If I can't make amends to the person, I make amends to someone similar.

Then, I come up with a different way to handle a similar situation in the future.. If we fail the lesson once, never mind, that lesson will come to us again a little further up life's road. I want to be ready to pass the test next time,.

Some of my greatest victories have thus sp

8:23PM PDT on Apr 13, 2011

nice attitude, saved, emailed.

9:52PM PDT on Oct 27, 2010

Simple. Learn from your mistakes to become a better person.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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