3 Reasons to Own Major Mistakes
Joel Eschenbach • July 03, 2017
About 15 years ago I made the mistake of my life...
At the ripe age of 21, I got married. I had just graduated Bible College and was on the fast track for achieving my dream of perfection. Perfection for me at that time meant becoming a leader in the church. I was going to be a “man of integrity,” a well respected young leader, the envy of the world around me. So, I crossed the friend-zone and married a woman who I thought would make me a better man and “complete me.”
The next few years were a whirlwind of moving around the country and trying to find the perfect position in a local church. I finally got the job of my dreams as a youth pastor at a decent sized church in Colorado (after completely failing as a youth leader in Connecticut). Everything was going great… until it all fell apart.
We started having martial problems, stopped being honest, and it pretty much went down hill from there. After only being married about 2 years, we got divorced.
The hardest part of that season in my life was going through a separation and divorce in front of an entire church. She left the church, I was eventually fired, and I lost everything. I mean everything. No house, no car, no job, no money, no family in town. If it wasn’t for some amazing friends, I would have been homeless. But it all happened out in the open. Hundreds of people knew my story. It was humiliating, but it ultimately changed my life.
That’s the thing about our major mistakes and failures, we know that we’re supposed to learn from them, but truthfully, we all hate making mistakes. Just like everyone else, in life and on Social Media, I like to show my successes, victories, and amazing vacations with my always happy, never complaining, beautiful family.
Why would I show my hand and admit when I’m wrong, when I screwed up, when I fell flat on my face? Well, here’s a few reasons…
1. Owning our mistakes keeps us from repeating them
Once you admit your mistakes to someone and put yourself out there, it’s going to be tough to repeat that mistake without thinking twice.
A few months back, I realized I was getting cynical about some of the more difficult clients I work with. I noticed I was complaining quite a bit and it was affecting our team’s morale. I’d come into work in a bad mood and couldn’t seem to pull it together. So I finally admitted my bad attitude to the team, apologized, and we talked through it.
I still struggle with cynicism and a negative attitude sometimes, but after that conversation, it’s been easier to turn things around. Why? Because now I’m more accountable for my actions. I owned my mistakes, admitted where I went wrong, and everyone acknowledged it. So it’s in the forefront of my mind the next time I start whining.
2. Admitting our mistakes sets us free from our ego
We all know people that are a mess, but keep standing by ridiculous decisions in the name of pride. They don’t want to admit that they’re wrong, even though everyone else knows that they are. Even though they look like jerks, they’ve kept it up too long and are afraid of what will happen if they own up to their mistakes.
Don’t be one of those people. Everyone resents those kind of people.
We’ve all got this ego monster that doesn’t want to be wrong and doesn’t want to look stupid or unprepared in the face of adversity. So we keep building up our egos to look better, and before long, we become slaves. Slaves to keeping up appearances.
I’ve played this game way too many times. I’ve beaten all the levels, and at the end, it’s lonely as hell.
I love what Mark Manson says, “The more we choose to accept responsibility in our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives.1” True power and transformation doesn’t come from puffing ourselves up and pretending everything is fine, it comes from admitting mistakes, accepting our failures, and moving on.
Freedom is having nothing to hide. True freedom from the ego means no more games.
- Mark Manson
3. People follow mistake makers
I’m a huge fan of Donald Miller and his company StoryBrand. They use the tool of storytelling to teach businesses how to communicate their message. One of the biggest paradigm shifts they teach is that your customer is the hero, not you. In other words, don’t go on and on talking about yourself, talk about what the customer needs and cares about.
They teach the art of positioning yourself as “The Guide” instead of the hero of the story. I love this!
Sometimes we spend too much time trying to be the hero of our stories when people in our lives need a guide. And what does everyone look for in a guide? Someone who’s been through the fire and made it out alive. Someone who has made the mistakes, failed miserably, and learned the wisdom that comes from those hardships. We don’t want a guide who’s never made a mistake, or worse - never admits their mistakes. From Yoda and Luke to Haymitch and Katniss to The Hudson Hornet and Lighting Mcqueen, we’re looking for the counselor or guide that knows the path forged by failure that ultimately led to success.
I want to admit when I’m wrong, when I make huge mistakes, because who knows, it might actually help someone else find their way.
I’ll leave you with a final quote from Mark Manson, “We can be truly successful only at something we’re willing to fail at. If we’re unwilling to fail, then we’re unwilling to succeed.
Oh yeah, by the way, that whole “dream of perfection” thing that I mentioned earlier… I don’t care much about it anymore. In fact, after trying again multiple times, I finally left church leadership about 7 years ago and couldn’t be happier. These days I’m fine with being an honest, mistake-making fool, with an amazing wife that knows me better than I know myself… and I feel more free than ever!
1. This quote is from Mark Manson's Book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck.