PDF Preview Now Available — “The Mistakes That Make Us”


Now available for download and reading: A PDF preview of the Introduction and Chapter 1 of my upcoming book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation.

This preview document has been copyedited but is not formatted like the actual print books will be.

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It starts…

Introduction to the Introduction

“What's your favorite mistake?”

When I asked 200 successful people that question, I learned that my podcast guests possess an admirable combination of confidence and humility. They have shared stories, reflections, and lessons, including:

  • The member of Congress who lost his first primary before learning from his mistake and winning in his second try
  • The CEO whose savvy acquisition literally made a name for his company but saddled it with a surprising debt load that might have been a blessing in disguise
  • The retired Japanese Toyota executive who wasn't fired for a mistake that messed up the paint on 100 cars, and the American leader who had the same experience decades later in Kentucky
  • The aide whose loose lips led to a spicy quote in USA Today but who, thankfully, worked for a U.S. Representative who focused on learning over punishment
  • The distiller who over-aged 100 barrels of expensive whiskey but worked for a founder who realized mistakes happen when you're innovating
  • The shark whose mistake almost put his company underwater for good…

Wait, a shark? That's not a typo. I'll explain it soon.

Why would people admit mistakes like these in a public forum? They understand how reacting kindly to mistakes can lead to growth and progress. They celebrate the progress and growth that results from mistakes when we react to them in constructive ways. My podcast and book are neither a pity party nor a shaming session. They are places to remember that we all make mistakes and to celebrate the learning and vulnerability that sets a powerful example for others.

When people start a story with “I'm going to be vulnerable here,” we often brace ourselves to hear something personal, if not embarrassing. Admitting a workplace mistake feels vulnerable because it exposes us to the risk of professional harm or loss–which could include being marginalized, demoted, or fired.

Guests on My Favorite Mistake admit and own their mistakes instead of blaming others for any misfortune. And they felt safe enough to do so. Sadly, many people feel pressured to protect themselves by keeping quiet about mistakes.

Speaking up isn't a matter of character or courage–it's driven by culture. People feel safe to share when their leaders and colleagues treat them with respect. Instead of asking people to be brave, leaders must create conditions where people can feel safe.

The most powerful question one can ask after a mistake is, “What did we learn?” People who know that their workplace reacts constructively to mistakes can reflect, learn, and improve–preventing mistakes from being repeated, learning how to prevent mistakes that haven't happened yet, and proactively improving every aspect of our work to drive better results.

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