Never be afraid of making mistakes

By Jackson Henry

“The greatest mistake that a man can make is to be afraid of making one”, said Elbert Hubbard. James Joyce once said, “Mistakes are portals of discovery”. The famous investor and the discoverer of the electric light bulb, Thomas Edison, once said, “Don’t call them mistakes, call them education”. A Palauan elder once advised me, “People who are afraid of making mistakes usually fail to contribute anything extraordinary to the village”. Many people freeze or become petrified by fear of making mistakes when faced with tough decisions. Opportunities are lost and profits are foregone. It is no wonder when questioned how a man turned a tiny “mom & pop” store in Arkansas into the biggest retailer in the world, Sam Walton said, “I made a lot of mistakes”. 

This issue surfaced during a social function with a Taiwan delegation when a controversial Bill was discussed. I said to Senator Diaz, “Palau must not be afraid to make mistakes. We are entitled to a few if we want development”. Senator Diaz passionately agreed replying, “I am not afraid to make mistakes and that is why I am successful”. I raised my glass to the Senator in praise, because courage is one virtue that Palauans must have if we aspire effective leadership. I salute Senator Diaz for his fortitude. Despite oppositions and public sneer, the Senator has kept his head high and maintained his dignity. Surely, history cannot be made if leaders are petrified with fears of making a few boo boos.

The first criteria in controlling fears is to be aware that making mistakes is human. No one is perfect and man is fallible. We cannot escape life without making a few mistakes along the way. Second is to learn from the mistakes and put in place the necessary controls to prevent repeating them. Third, admit that you made a mistake, apologize to the injured, and move on. Mistakes are forgiven if one’s intension were right. Japan is famous of making public apologies when mistakes are made. Fourth, do not be defensive when your mistakes are revealed. Evasive action is a sign of weakness and insecurity. Instead, thank them and promise to take corrective actions. A wise man once said, “Love thy enemies, for they have courage to point out your faults”.

In the course of building our economy, Palau will make a few mistakes and that is perfectly acceptable as birth pains comes with development. And when we do, we must publicly recognize our mistakes and make commitments to prevent their reoccurrence. However, we must not be consumed by fear to a point where we become indecisive and ineffective.  As Jack Schilling once said, “Without mistakes, man cannot find wisdom, progression and greatness”.

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