Taylor Swift on the Inevitability of Mistakes and the Positive Outcomes That Can Follow


Since I host a podcast about mistakes (“My Favorite Mistake“), this is a topic I think about a lot. I hear about people's “favorite” professional mistakes and I reflect on my own.

This headline naturally caught my eye last week:

Taylor Swift's Message to NYU's Class of 2022: ‘My Mistakes Led to the Best Things in My Life'

Even though the WSJ normally has a paywall, that article link should be free to read for all.

Embed from Getty Images

The article says that Swift's view is that “mistakes aren't failures” and that we should “not [be] discouraged by mistakes and letting go.”

She doesn't share a lot of detail (or it wasn't in the article), but there's this quote from her commencement speech:

“My mistakes led to the best things in my life,” she said, later adding: “getting back up, dusting yourself off, and seeing who still wants to hang out with you afterward and laugh about it–that's a gift.”

The full text of the speech can be found here.

The longer version of her comments about mistakes:

So I became a young adult while being fed the message that if I didn't make any mistakes, all the children of America would grow up to be perfect angels. However, if I did slip up, the entire earth would fall off its axis and it would be entirely my fault and I would go to pop star jail forever and ever. It was all centered around the idea that mistakes equal failure and ultimately, the loss of any chance at a happy or rewarding life. 
This has not been my experience. My experience has been that my mistakes led to the best things in my life. 
And being embarrassed when you mess up is part of the human experience. Getting back up, dusting yourself off and seeing who still wants to hang out with you afterward and laugh about it? That's a gift.

The times I was told no or wasn't included, wasn't chosen, didn't win, didn't make the cut…looking back, it really feels like those moments were as important, if not more crucial, than the moments I was told ‘yes.' 

She also talked about the need to bounce back from mistakes that we will inevitably make:

And so this may be hard for you to hear: In your life, you will inevitably misspeak, trust the wrong people, under-react, overreact, hurt the people who didn't deserve it, overthink, not think at all, self sabotage, create a reality where only your experience exists, ruin perfectly good moments for yourself and others, deny any wrongdoing, not take the steps to make it right, feel very guilty, let the guilt eat at you, hit rock bottom, finally address the pain you caused, try to do better next time, rinse, repeat. 

And I'm not gonna lie, these mistakes will cause you to lose things.
I'm trying to tell you that losing things doesn't just mean losing.

A lot of the time, when we lose things, we gain things too. 

What do you think? Have you made “favorite mistakes” that have led to happy accidents or something to gain?

In hindsight, one of my “favorite mistakes” was taking a job with Dell Computer in 1999. I was able to do some really interesting work, but I learned fairly quickly that I didn't think that culture was a place I was going to be happy long term.

But, I met my wife there!

In a slightly more dramatic version of that type of story, l asked Ron Magill, from Zoo Miami, what his “favorite mistake” was — getting his hand nearly bitten off my a crocodile led to him meeting… the woman he eventually married.

That doesn't mean that every mistake or bad decision in life is going to lead to some positive and life-changing outcome. I'd rather make a relatively small mistake of taking “the wrong job” than I would want to have my hand nearly ripped off. Ron learned from his mistake — learning not to be so cocky or careless.

I'm not sure I learned my lesson because I felt the same way when I took a job at Honeywell in 2004. But, I have made sure that I haven't put myself back into one of those large company culture settings… running on almost 20 years.

We'll inevitably make mistakes. We learn reflect and learn without dwelling on them and beating ourselves up. I appreciate that Taylor Swift has learned that and is sharing that message.

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

Get New Posts Sent To You

Select list(s):
Previous articleLean Whiskey #33: On the Road Again and In Person for the First Time
Next articleA Chart is a Picture That’s Worth More Than a Thousand Words?
Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.