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I felt like someone hit me in my stomach. Nervous, anxious, serious all rolled up into one giant ball of anxiety strung up so tight that the lightest of words would shatter my confidence revealing my fragile self. My palms were balmy. My forehead felt the bead of sweat starting to crystallize.

I had made a mistake.

Not a big one but who knows? It was unpredictable. I thought I was doing the right thing. A really good thing. Ethical, common sense type thing that didn’t harm a soul. But chaos got in the way and the outcome of my action had an unanticipated response. Who knew???!!!

Instead of being a positive, it became a negative. I felt bad about it. I didn’t sleep. Anxiety and stress started to creep up like a virus spreading it’s toxic mind altering mood, replacing my usual happy go lucky smile with a frown.

While it doesn’t really matter what the mistake was specifically, what matters more is the impact the mistake had on me. It stopped me in my tracks, unable to move forward with life.

This happened at work…a few weeks ago. But I did move forward…more quickly than in the past.. On my recent long flight to the West Coast (photo above of the plane getting ready to land in San Francisco), I realized that my recovery time after a mistake has been shorter and shorter as I learn to deal with uncertainty, unpredictability and the complex nature of life today. As I’m learning to embrace the chaos, I’m getting used to accepting the chaos that happens in life and learning to move forward regardless.

Here are 4 lessons I learned about How to Move Forward After a Mistake:

1. Mistakes are better than regrets

It hurts when you make a mistake. It holds you back. Keeps you up. Turns the hardness of the ground to jello. You are unsure of anything that you do. Painful as it may seem at first, sometimes making a mistake is better than having a regret in life. You can get over mistakes. Yes, it takes time. But regrets—they gnaw away slowly at your soul, especially if you want to do something but haven’t enough courage to move forward and do it.

Mistakes are temporary and given enough time, we forget them. But regrets—Regrets are those memories void of life that we carry to our graves.

Curse. Run a few laps. Kick the garbage can, if you have to. Write your mistake on paper and toss it away. Announce it to the world. Get it off your chest. Get over it. Move on. It’s ok. I know your pain. We have all been there. But don’t regret it. Absorb it. Accept it. Fight, beat it, resist the temptation to call it a regret. The temptation to make it into anything other than what it is: an error of judgement or action. That’s it. An error. It’s not your whole life!

2. Mistakes give us a chance to adapt and pivot

At times, we head in the wrong direction and we just don’t know it. So making a mistake can be a learning experience to teach us about the task we’re working on – whether it’s the way we interact in a relationship or the way you’re handling customers in your business. It allows us a way to adapt ourselves to our environment and the people whom we interact with. To shift our thinking, our actions and our direction. Making a mistake gives us an opportunity to avoid a wall and move to another path.

In today’s startup entrepreneurship culture, one of the most overly used term is “pivot” because so many entrepreneurs do it. They move, adapt and change course if their business is not heading in the right direction. And sometimes mistakes tell us that we have to move forward in a whole new direction. We just have to listen…and more important we have to keep walking, keep doing and keep moving forward.

3. Making a mistake is proof that we are out there LIVING A NORMAL LIFE!

Life is unpredictable, uncertain, complex and fast. When you’re out in the real world, putting your very essence, your ideas and passion to work each day, you’re bound to make a mistake because no one is perfect. You’re simply human. But know in your heart and your mind that it’s ok because it is real proof that you’re taking a shot at life. You’re taking a chance at becoming who you were meant to be. You are alive and kicking…and that’s an awesome feeling because the absence of making a mistake in life is fantasyland. No one lived a full life without making a mistake because we don’t know everything, we can’t predict the future and we’re just like everyone else: Normal!

4. Making a mistake gives us a chance to improve ourselves. Makes us faster, better, stronger and nicer.

When I made a major mistake a few years ago, I had deep regrets. It made me a more cautious person which eventually led me to spiral down a slope of uncertainty and despair. And I was stuck in that mode for sometime. I felt miserable and didn’t feel like leaving the house. But when I finally got the courage to move forward, I had to dig deep and fix my mentality – the way I thought about the world and myself and also the actions I take each day. I no longer regret that mistake because it made me who I am today. It forced me to become a better, stronger and more positive person. It also made me more humble because I realized that I was human!

As I learn to deal with uncertainty, the complexity and unpredictability of life today and even chaos at work, I realize that it is likely that I will make more mistakes as I move forward in this crazy world. But I have come to the realization deep inside that the true benefit from making a mistake in life is never fully realized sitting on the fence and being stuck…it is only realized when I continue to move forward.


By Bob Miglani

Bob Miglani is the Author of the Washington Post Bestseller, Embrace the Chaos, which is about learning to move forward in times of change, uncertainty and disruption. He grew up running his family's Dairy Queen store, the subject of his first book, Treat Your Customers. He worked in corporate America for 23 years. Left to pursue a life of passion working in a startup, writing, motivational speaking and learning how to live a life of contribution.

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