Learn From Your Mistakes

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When we walk in a room and switch on a light, we can be thankful for an unlikely genius named Thomas Edison. We can be grateful for moving pictures and audio recordings as a result of this one man’s perseverance. With very little formal schooling, and numerous mishaps and failures, few people expected young Thomas Alva Edison to amount to anything at all. As a curious boy, he burned down the family stable. As a young man, he lost his job as a newspaper salesman on a train because he nearly blew up one of the train cars with his experiments. As an ambitious entrepreneur and inventor, one of his first inventions turned out to be a colossal commercial failure. Yet he looked at each failure as an opportunity to learn and grow and discover new things.

Edison had a unique drive and perseverance that kept him learning and growing despite his failures and mistakes. He didn’t allow discouragements to linger, rather he pushed forward with curiosity and commitment. And aren’t we thankful? On the 50th anniversary of the electric light bulb, Henry Ford organized a celebration of his dear friend Edison. President Herbert Hoover spoke about the variety of ways that the electric light had made life better, “It enables our towns and cities to clothe themselves in gaiety by night, no matter how sad their appearance may be by day. And by all its multiple uses it has lengthened the hours of our active lives, decreased our fears, replaced the dark with good cheer, increased our safety, decreased our toil, and enabled us to read the type in the telephone book.”*

The light bulb represent countless hours in the laboratory filled with failed experiments and frustrations. When asked by a reporter with the New York Times about the seemingly incredible difficulties associated with developing the light bulb, Edison responded, “I have not failed 700 times. I’ve succeeded in proving 700 ways how not to build a light bulb.” What an extraordinary perspective! Can we look at our mistakes as successes, or are we so caught up in the disappointments and frustrations that we can’t see the positive aspects of our failures? Let’s determine to look at life with and attitude that includes the joy of learning and the opportunity to discover the lesson behind each challenge and mistake.

*Herbert Hoover: “Address on the 50th Anniversary of Thomas Edison’s Invention of the Incandescent Electric Lamp.,” October 21, 1929.

This is an excerpt from my book, Positive Leadership Principles for Women

Lead Photo by Diz Play on Unsplash

Take the First Step

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A number of years ago we added a new dog to our home, but she was no small pup. She was a nine-month-old English mastiff named Bentley. Sweet, gentle, and loveable – Bentley was also extremely fearful. One day, she courageously followed me upstairs to the second floor of our house. That was all well and good except for the simple fact that she was too frightened to come down the stairs. She couldn’t seem to figure out how to navigate the first step.

Of course I wasn’t going to allow her to live the rest of her doggy life on the second floor of our house, so I tried to gently help her down. She wasn’t budging. All she wanted to do was sit and bark at the steps. After forty-five minutes of bribing, pulling and coaxing, she finally decided to take the first step down. (Where is the Dog Whisperer when you need him?) Once Bentley accomplished the first step, the second wasn’t too bad. Then the next and the next and finally she was running free on the first floor again! What a relief for both her and us! She obviously had the ability to go down the stairs safely; she just didn’t have the courage to take that first step.

Bentley’s situation made me think how often I nestle safely in my situation or resist moving forward because I just don’t know how to make the initial move. Sometimes I don’t know what to do, and sometimes out of fear of the unknown I prefer to just stay put. Instead of taking steps in a positive direction, it is sometimes easier just to sit and bark  – or in human terms, whine, complain or make excuses.

Maybe you are thinking of a new career direction or a book you want to write. Or you could be considering a volunteer opportunity or learning a new skill. Or maybe you need to break a bad habit or reorganize the house. For most of us, the first step is typically the hardest one, as well as the most significant.

Stop for a moment and consider the direction God is leading you, and think about what may be keeping you from moving in a positive direction. Are there fears you need to confront? Are you blaming others? Do you need to make changes in your schedule? Are there new skills you need to learn or a class you need to take?

Ask God to give you the courage to take that first step.

 Continue to take little steps day by day, and don’t let discouragement or fear get in your way.

 Like a precious toddler, there will be those times you are walking along and you begin to stumble. But just as a parent kindly reaches down and helps the toddler up to his feet, so the Lord is there with you, strengthening you and holding your hand. David put it perfectly when he wrote:

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
 He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
 for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23,24

My friend, do you see the picture of the Lord’s graceful hand helping you up? Keep it in mind as you continue to journey step by step. You may not feel as though you have what it takes, but God can give you the feet you need for the journey ahead. He is strong where you are weak. He is sufficient and able to carry you. Take the first step toward positive growth and change, looking to Him for strength and guidance.

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This is an excerpt from Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive.

Blog Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash