My wife and I enjoy taking our three granddaughters to a certain fast food restaurant on a certain day each week. When their parents are able to join us we enjoy the occasion even more. We were recently engaged in our little weekly ritual and had just placed our order when a couple came into the restaurant with their young daughter in tow. The man seemed a little agitated as he placed their order but he did so, they got their drinks at the soda fountain, and they sat down near us in a booth. Their order and ours were ready at about the same time. Before we could get the wrappers off our burgers the man in the booth started to swear.
“I’m getting my money back!” he roared. “These stupid people can’t even get an order right!” Our son-in-law and I began to check out our orders thinking that perhaps they had gotten mixed up. Before we could say anything, the man got angrily to his feet, demanded a refund, which he received without protest, and he quickly ushered his glum little family out the door leaving a table full of untouched food.
I heard a similar story about the time a man and an acquaintance went into a restaurant together. “As the waitress was serving our soup,” he said, “her hand caught on the back of a chair, one of the dishes skidded a couple of inches, and several drops of the soup fell on my friend’s coat sleeve. ‘Stupid waitress!’ he said. ‘Where do they find such stupid workers?’
“The waitress was very sorry, as anyone could see by observing her anxious expression, and she immediately did everything that she could to relieve the situation. But my friend, who himself had occasionally made mistakes in his own work, made no effort to retrieve his unkind words and only left a cold dime tip by his plate. (I added a couple of dollars when he was not looking.) The waitress now had a cloud that would put a shadow on her heart for the rest of the day.”
Every day one of the five or six billion people on this planet makes a mistake. No one is exempt. It is the nature of the human condition for people to err—regularly—as they stretch and grow in this life. (Even I thought I had made a mistake once—but, of course, I was mistaken.)
Successful people are not afraid to make mistakes. They accept their errors and failures and continue on; knowing that making a mistake is a natural consequence of trying. Making a mistake is not as important as how we react to it. Elbert Hubbard said, “God will not look you over for medals, degrees, or diplomas, but for scars.”
When Christopher Columbus started his journey he didn’t know where he was going; when he got there he didn’t know where he was; and when he returned he didn’t know where he had been. His whole trip was considered by many of his peers to be foolishness. But now his exploits are touted as some of the greatest of all time.
Paul H. Dunn said the following jingle isn’t very good poetry but, nevertheless, contains a very helpful thought:
The man who never makes mistakes, And never guesses wrong,
Who never any chances takes, Works cautiously along,
May never lose a single bone, A dollar have to pay—,
Because he’ll never likely own, A dollar anyway.
The man who was never known to err, Will hold his job for years.
He need not start, he need not stir, Discharge he never fears.
He sticks to old accustomed paths As he has always done;
He’ll never lose the job he has, Nor get a better one.
I have been discharged from at least two jobs in my life. The last time I thought I had a pretty good case against my evil employer. But when I sought legal counsel, I was asked simply, “Why would you want to work for someone who obviously doesn’t want you around?” I took his advice and moved on to bigger and better things. I have never looked back with regret. It would have been a stupid mistake to remain where I was. Life is good.