You made a mistake. Now what?


Everyone (no exceptions) makes mistakes and most people don’t know how to deal with themselves after they made a mistake. I was one of them and I am still learning.

For a long time, I used to have a roller coaster ride when it came to how I dealt with myself every time I made a mistake. Sometimes I was proud of myself with the finesse of my post-mistake-behavior but most of the time, I simply would wreck myself with internal blame and internal shame.

At the core, I simply hated myself for making mistakes.

The quest to be perfect was probably the greatest imperfection.

Early accomplishments (published novelist by age thirteen, six books by seventeen, state ranks at public exams) were all good on the outside by they presented a double-edged sword. If I had to continue to stand-out, I had to take risks and if I took risks, there was a good chance that I would fall flat on my face. There was a lot of stress about deciding to-risk or deciding not-to-risk.

I chose the option of taking risks. The journey begain and risks were taken, AND mistakes were made time and again. The exterior calm was generally accompanied by an interior storm.

Luckily, I learned how to deal with mistakes. I shudder to think of consequences for the alternate scenario.

Source of Learning

The big learning came from the world of philosophy. In fact there were two sources – linguistic philosophy and stoic philosophy.

Thanks to Stan Leopard for introducing me to the journey of linguistic philosophy, the world has never been the same again. At the core of linguistic philosophy, we learn that we create our world with our words. That is all there is – the words we choose. The words are what creates our world.

The core of stoic philosophy is an eternal quest for tranquility. It’s as simple as that.

Combine the two and you can create magic.

The Lesson

I won’t go into the details but now I have a simple three step process to deal with mistakes:

1. Set aside my ego and acknowledge the mistake: Honestly, nobody is a superman and wearing a mask like we are one won’t help us one bit. Whenever I make a mistake, I get to acknowledge it first. The faster I do it the better it is. It is hard to admit it but once I do, a big weight is removed from my shoulders.

2. Identify the lessons for future: Every mistake also adds to experience – at least we know what not to do. The best way to “learn” the lessons is to start by “writing them down” on a piece of paper.

3. Choose not to pay the price twice OR get back on feet again: I have paid the price (consequences of making that mistake) already but spending any more time other than #1 and #2 above will be to pay the price twice. Easiest way to get out of it is to say “This is not the first time and this won’t be the last time that I will make a mistake.” The only sane thing to do is to see how I can help reduce the pain from the mistake. For that, I need to take action. Now!


I am an eternal work-in-progress and I am sure you are too. If you take real risks, then you can be guaranteed to make mistakes. If you have never made mistakes, chances are that you have never taken real risks. The fear of making mistakes is not the reason for you to avoid taking real risks. Rather, learn to deal with owning up the mistakes and moving ahead.