What’s your worst mistake?

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.
Leo Buscaglia
1924 – 1998

If you reflect back on your life, what’s the worst mistake you ever made? Think about it a moment. If you’re anything like me, you’ve made quite a few mistakes in your lifetime. Most of us have trouble letting go of our missteps; we relive them in our minds and want to go back and correct them.

But I would suggest that, no matter what mistakes you’ve made, there’s an even larger error you’ve not only committed, but continue to make. Unfortunately, most people don’t even recognize this problem or see it for the stumbling block it is.

I believe the biggest mistake we all make is in trying to avoid mistakes. As children, we were infinitely curious. We learned very rapidly about life: how to do things, what works and what doesn’t. And the greatest lessons come from our failures.

We typically don’t learn from our successes; we learn from our failures. But as we progressed through childhood, we became more cautious. We were taught to avoid errors at all costs. We learned that failure is bad, so we limit our risks.

I’ve seen far too many people ruin their lives by trying to avoid mistakes. I’ve witnessed countless business failures occur because the managers stuck with what worked in the past and failed to embrace change. Avoiding risk in our personal lives and our businesses is often the most dangerous route to take.

I’m certainly not suggesting that you should run your business or live your life in a reckless manner. Rather, I recommend that you be open to trying new things and taking more chances. In business, there’s an adage about how to achieve success: fail fast, fail often and limit the cost. Learn from each and every mistake you make.

Most people are much too cautious in their lives. They believe avoiding risk is the best course of action. But what they’re really avoiding is living. Our brains are hardwired to learn and grow. We’re designed to achieve our potential — yet most people hide in their comfort zones and live their lives trying to avoid missteps.

Your purpose should be to live life to its fullest. To cling to the illusion of safety and avoid all risk is the worst mistake you can make.

It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all.
William James
1842 – 1910

Copyright © 2019 John Chancellor


What’s your worst mistake? — 4 Comments

  1. As always, I appreciate your insights from this article. I brought some peace to me as I look back on some risks I took in the last week. Although I question some of what I did, I recognize that I did it from courage to move my life forward and make a contribution to others and know that I would not give that up for anything. So thank you for your thoughts.

  2. Roger,

    You are such a good source of wisdom. I treasure your thoughts and comments.


  3. Fear of taking risks is a natural tendency, intended to keep us safe. The biggest mistakes we make are around risks which involve our ego, not the safety of ourselves or our property. A good way to move forward in the face of fear is to remind yourself that no matter how big the failure, you won’t be the first nor the last human to experience failure on that scale. People are a lot more understanding and forgiving of our mistakes than we are.