How To Learn From Your Mistakes and Come Out Ahead

Panic stricken man realizes a mistake

Recently, I made a huge mistake in setting up something for the recent Shirt Lab Summit. We had a live Zoom hangout planned for the first day, and I set it up incorrectly.

Zoomie Zoom Zoom

Quick, do you know the difference between a Zoom Webinar and a Zoom Meeting?

A Zoom webinar is where you or someone else presents content to an audience. You can’t see them, but you know they are there. Here’s an example of a Zoom Webinar that I normally produce:

I create these constantly.

A Zoom Meeting is one with a grid of people, and there is engagement, discussion, and instant interaction.

Shirt Lab Summit was a virtual event that presented the entire “Customer Journey” and broke it into eight ideas. The Zoom hangout, which we entitled the “Journey Jam,” was intended to have a lively discussion on our event and focus on engagement on the topic.

It needed to be a Zoom Meeting. Emphasis on the word, Meeting. As I always create webinars, my muscle memory simply chose the wrong Zoom type when I set up the event.


Kinda funny until you realize that you are the only person on Zoom, and everyone else is just a name on the attendee list.

A few panic-filled minutes later, we had a new meeting and helped everyone follow the breadcrumbs to join in.

Here’s that meeting, by the way:

Not My First Mistake

This error was not my first mistake as a human being. And it certainly won’t be the last.

You make mistakes. I make mistakes. Everyone you know (and everyone you have never met before) makes mistakes. It is universal.

With so many mistakes being made, it is a wonder why people don’t crawl into a hole and curl up into a fetal position. Actually, come to think about it, some people actually do that.

Or worse, they don’t try anything because they fear making mistakes more than not doing something.

How you do anything is how you do everything.

Mistakes Sometimes Are Not That Bad

Sometimes a mistake actually leads to a new development. Many incredible and lucrative inventions started off as mistakes.

  • Post-it Notes: In 1968, 3M scientist Spencer Silver attempted to create a super-strong adhesive but ended up with a weak one. His colleague, Arthur Fry, found a use for it as a bookmark that stuck to paper without damaging it, and the Post-it Note was born.
  • Penicillin: Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928 by accident. He left a petri dish of Staphylococcus bacteria uncovered, and a mold spore from a nearby lab contaminated the dish. When he returned, he noticed that the mold had killed the bacteria, leading to the development of the first antibiotic.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies: Ruth Wakefield, the owner of the Toll House Inn, ran out of baker’s chocolate while making cookies and substituted broken pieces of Nestle chocolate instead. The chocolate didn’t melt as expected, resulting in a new kind of cookie that became the classic American favorite.
  • Microwave Ovens: Percy Spencer, a self-taught engineer, was working on a radar project during World War II when he noticed a candy bar in his pocket had melted. He realized that microwaves emitted by the radar had caused the chocolate to melt, leading to the invention of the microwave oven.
  • Slinky: The Slinky was invented by Richard James, a naval engineer trying to create a meter to monitor battleships’ power. He accidentally knocked some springs off a shelf and watched as they “walked” down a stack of books onto the floor. The Slinky was born.
  • Velcro: Swiss engineer George de Mestral invented Velcro in 1941 after removing burrs from his dog’s fur. He examined the burrs under a microscope and noticed they had tiny hooks that caught on anything with a loop, leading to the development of the now-famous fastener.
  • Coca-Cola: In 1886, Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton was trying to create a headache cure when he accidentally mixed coca leaves and kola nuts together. The result was the first batch of Coca-Cola.
  • Potato Chips: In 1853, chef George Crum was trying to appease a customer who kept returning his fried potatoes for being too thick and soggy. In frustration, Crum sliced the potatoes paper-thin, fried them until they were crispy, and sent them out. The customer loved them, and potato chips were born.

Of course, I didn’t invent anything out of my recent Zoom mistake. However, I was taught a valuable lesson in double-checking my work.

One of my friend Richard Greave’s favorite quotes is from Oscar Wilde, “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.”

I am now more experienced with Zoom.

Five Key Steps To Come Out Ahead and Learn From Your Mistakes

First, admit your mistake.

This is extremely difficult for some people. In their minds, “the facade of perfection” must always be maintained.

That is silly. And leads to all sorts of traps, dangers, and deceits.

Imagine how much better this world would be if people honestly admit they were wrong or made a mistake!

You need to come clean. We all make mistakes. Admit it! Talk about it.

It is actually very liberating.

Secondly, analyze the mistake.

What happened?

In my case, I wasn’t paying attention to the end result and the outcome that I wanted. It was just a click. But it was the wrong click.

It was like the famous line from the old knight in the “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade” movie, “He chose….poorly.”

If only I had taken about five seconds to double-check my work and decision. Sometimes, a disastrous result happens that fast.

I did choose poorly. Inside, I was screaming like Elsa in that scene.

Third, learn from the mistake.

Time will tell if I learn from that mistake. However, the embarrassment I felt from doing something stupid will linger for a long time, so you can bet that I’ll (hopefully) remember my lesson.

Choose for outcomes!

Double-check your work!

Fourth, move forward.

Whatever happened, you can’t change that mistake. It is in the past. Leave it there.

Don’t dwell on the mistake; work to improve the situation. On that Zoom “Journey Jam” challenge, one of my business partners, Tom Rauen, called me to let me know I’m a knucklehead. We immediately set up another Zoom Meeting and transitioned the people on the call to the new meeting.

Was it awkward? Yes.

Was it embarrassing? Yes.

Did we still have the event? You bet. Watch the second video shown in this blog. It was a fun and engaging call. In the end, it worked out.

You have to roll with the punches sometimes. Do you have a “Plan B?”

Finally, try seeking feedback.

When problems arise, and mistakes happen, try getting feedback from your team or others. You want more perspectives than your own. Ask for constructive criticism from those you trust, and work to improve yourself.

Coming out ahead in your future is about applying the knowledge that you gained from the mistake to your life.

If you repeat the same mistake, it is obvious you are not learning and applying the lesson.

Time will tell with my relationship with Zoom. Stay tuned.

“If you are not making mistakes, you are not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” – John Wooden

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” – Mary Tyler Moore

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” – James Joyce

Help Support This Blog

While I may be goofing around with AI for some projects, this blog and its contents have been created by me, Marshall Atkinson. For this particular article, I did use ChatGPT for a small part of it, an AI tool…but it was me using it and directing the results.

Why am I writing this? To remind you, dear reader, these words are backed by a real person. With experience, flaws, successes, and failures… That’s where growth and learning happen. By putting in the work.

If you are reading this and it is not on my website, it has been stolen without my permission by some autobot. Please report this to me and/or publicly out the website that hijacked it. And if you are trying to copy and use it without my permission, you are stealing. Didn’t your mama teach you better?

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