Sam Gimbel

Tech, Beer, and Strange Thoughts.

Admit Your Mistakes

I've often been told that admitting my mistakes will "set me free." It's something you hear from parents and especially in the tech industry where failing fast has been elevated to a status approaching success. It makes sense: we make errors, and if we are open to them and recognize them when they happen we can learn and do better the next time that situation occurs. Even better, we can learn from the mistakes of others who share their experiences with us and make a better world as a result.

Or something.

Focusing on mistakes always felt like a blasé approach to mindfulness, detached from the human experience in exactly the way you'd expect from the business world. I just assumed that by being a conscious human with a brain that it was possible to better myself over time through such a simple mechanism. I even felt the anxiety of a person worried that maybe I wasn't learning enough from these errors, like maybe my capacity for fucking shit up was greater than I was giving myself credit for. That was, until I made a real mistake.

Actually, that's a lie. It wasn't even a mistake. And it wasn't particularly regrettable, I was just paying attention at the time. By being aware at that moment I noticed how bad it felt to actually make the error itself, not just deal with the fallout. I was aware the whole time that the choice I was engaged in (but entirely absorbed in) was going to have negative consequences, in this case for the business I was working for. This mindfulness was the key in recognizing just how outrageous my baseline anxiety truly was and set me on a path towards addressing it.

Because that's what people older than myself meant when they told me to learn from my mistakes: It's not some business optimization strategy but a way to live your life and keep decisions in perspective. If a mistake feels bad and you're aware you're making it, not only will you probably not make it again, but your good, neutral, and semi-questionable decisions will exude a warm fuzziness you never thought possible. In a word, you'll be saving yourself from the anxiety and frustration that goes along with uncertainty and shades of gray.

If you're anything like me (anxious, driven, frustratingly handsome), these nuggets of adjustment keep you moving through the hardest challenges and the most boring lulls in life. Anxiety is born of uncertainty and nurtured by doubt and thrives on the amoral, non-value-weighted decisions we make hundreds of times every day. In this way, making mistakes and truly feeling them lends a certain confidence to those confusingly benign moments, fending off the anxiety monster in the process.