Look for Successes in Mistakes and Failures

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Credit: Thinkstock Post-It notes began life as a mistake.

Credit: Thinkstock Post-It notes began life as a mistake.

Sometimes we are so focused that if we don't achieve what we have defined as "success" in its entirety, we consider it a mistake or a failure. You wanted to have a horse show at the local fair grounds with 100 entrants, but only 50 showed up. Your first thought is that it was a failure, but was it? If from that 50 you got 10 new students, is that really a failure? If from that 50 you earned the same amount as you thought you would from 100, is that really a failure? If from that 50 you sold two horses, is that really a failure? If from that 50 you got jobs running three other horse shows, is that really failure?

So when are mistakes really successes? My guess is that you have a great example of this “sticking” around your office somewhere!

“The Post-it Note was invented as a solution without a problem: Dr. Spencer Silver developed a unique, repositionable adhesive, but the 3M scientist didn’t know what to do with his discovery. Then, six years later, a colleague of Dr. Silver, Art Fry, remembered the light adhesive when he was daydreaming about a bookmark that would stay put in his church hymnal. The rest is history. Today, Post-it Brand boasts more than 4,000 unique products, and has become one of the most well-known and beloved brands in the world.” (From Post-it.com.)

Dr. Silver was trying to create a “super-adhesive,” but the end result wasn’t what he was looking for (see the Wikipedia entry for Post-It Notes). However, a colleague found a use, and the brand has grown to a huge empire from that simple “mistake.”

So the next time your results don’t come out exactly like you planned, don’t give up. Look around and see if your result is a success in some other way, or is something that could be of use for something totally different than what you were working toward.

Sometimes the best solutions for problems and our biggest successes are the "mistakes" from something else we planned.