I often see articles that are lists of mistakes to avoid. “The Seven Biggest Mistakes to Avoid as an Artist”. “Mistakes to Avoid as a Start-up Entrepreneur”. “Mistakes Best Avoided”. You’ve seen these articles and blog posts too, right?
These articles invariably give bad advice. Actually, it’s not just bad advice; it’s terrible advice. Here’s why:
Missteak. Misstake. Miskate. Misdake. Mestake.
You often can’t avoid mistakes. Mistake making situations often unfold so fast and in so many different directions around you at once, that you’re unable to see the mistake you’re about to make until you make it. Mistakes are a reality. Nobody alive has ever read all the “mistakes to avoid” columns and thereby successfully avoided making any mistakes at all (unless they did nothing, which is a mistake in itself).
For every mistake these list makers list, they leave out a mistake you are bound to make instead. Who is to say that their list of mistakes even applies to your situation? To cover all eventualities and the vast panoply of possible mistakes, the list would have to be extremely long and cover the most bizarre of happenstances. If you believe there are just seven or even ten mistakes you should steer clear of, I admire your naivety, but I am afraid you are making a big mistake.
You shouldn’t be afraid of mistakes, because that’s how you learn. If you aren’t at risk of making a mistake, you’re too far inside your comfort zone to be doing anything genuinely worthwhile and groundbreaking. You might as well have phoned it in. Mistakes are better thought of as “feedback”. Sometimes it’s negative and painful feedback, but it teaches, that’s for sure. It is far more preferable to fail greatly than to avoid mistakes meekly. A missed ache is a mistake.
So in summary, the biggest mistake to avoid is seeing mistakes as avoidable, something you should avoid and to believe that your mistakes won’t be so peculiar and unique to your own endeavour, that somebody else could have made them before you and included them in a list of warnings.
Or perhaps I have that wrong.
(Actually, that was three mistakes, not one. Ooops)