Oct 09: The best teacher in life

mistakeFourth grade.  It was not my favorite time of life. It was in the fourth grade that I fell and broke my front teeth, then had a freak jungle gym accident that resulted in busting my face open and it was the year that I made it to the state spelling bee contest.  The teeth were fixed by a great oral surgeon.  The face was fixed by a great dermatologist and surgeon.  The state spelling bee…yeah – that kind of haunted me for life.

I worked so hard that year to get ready for the spelling bee. As I progressed from one contest to another, it became a possibility that I might actually be able to win.  Holy smokes!

When it came to the state spelling bee, I still remember how nervous I was when they called my name.  I got up and very promptly misspelled “conscientiously“.  I flubbed up my ‘ientiou’ part with one too many vowels.  I was done – I got fourth place in the spelling bee in fourth grade.  Ugh.

Well, guess what?  You don’t get any trophy for fourth place!  You do at third place, second place and of course first place – but you get a piece of paper that says “great job for jacking up your word, buddy” and that’s it!  (Ok, it said “Thank you for participating.”  Same difference to a fourth grader!)

On the ride home I was sour, my cheeks were hot and my eyes were stinging with tears at how I messed it all up.  It was my first public mistake – and it felt horrible on the inside.  When I got home I went straight to the kitchen table and started writing that word out over and over and over until I mastered it.  I know, it does no good AFTER the spelling bee, but I was trying to get rid of that disgusting feeling in my stomach.

It wasn’t until I was an adult  that I realized how proud I was of myself for mastering that word instead of going to my room, crying to my Barbie dolls about what a stupid head I had been and wishing the pit of my stomach would quit feeling so queasy.  Nope – I chose to move on.

Guess what?  The best teacher in life is a mistake.  I learned how to spell ‘conscientiously’ because of that mistake and I continue to make mistakes today (very publicly at times since I work in social media) but I’m open to learning from them.  I do not claim to know everything either; plus I keep my momentum moving forward during rotten times instead of sulking in the sickness of the error.

In your online and offline, personal and professional lives – you’re going to mess up.  What you do about it afterwards is the most important part of the lesson.

Sheryl Brown / @BionicSocialite


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