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The gift of mistakes and the message we need to hear on repeat.

Finding myself pushing wood across a router table, trying to create a smooth groove for a project I was working on, it should have been no surprise that I made a mistake.

But, make it I did. Though, in the end it turned out to be one of those “Happy Little Accidents” that the Legend, Bob Ross, used to teach us about.

The mistake I made was not properly measuring the depth and distance of the router, causing a 1/8th inch ridge between the two sections to remain intact. The happy accident, the groove allowed the two pieces of wood meant to sit in the groove to fit perfectly snug.

But, the mistake lead to another little problem.. I don’t think the ridge would hold up very long. So I ended up making a couple of replacements with the right settings just in case.

On a side tangent, you can see that video and the mistake in part one of the project video here.:

In the end I did my best to adapt and learn from the mistake as I moved on from it.

But I’m human. As such, I kept thinking about the mistake and beating myself up about it a bit.

Until I saw this post over on Facebook from “The Joy Of Painting” Official Bob Ross Facebook page. (yes I follow it, you should too!)

It got me thinking about mistakes and failures… again.

I don’t know Mr. Ross, you said you’ve made more than everybody put together, but I sure feel like I might give you a run for your money on that one!

Look, I know what you’re thinking.

“Oh look, someone else making a post about the cliche topic of mistakes and failures.”

Yeah, and?

I get it. We’ve all heard the advice a million times. We roll our eyes when someone else shares this message. What do the kids say these days, it’s so cringe?

Even though it’s true, we’ve heard it a million times, why do we need to be reminded so often that mistakes and failures are not the end. I don’t know about you, but even though I’ve heard (and given) the “mistakes are good, failures help us learn” advice a million times, when I fail or make a mistake I beat myself up.

First thing I do after making a mistake is cuss myself out for being stupid.


I know better.

So do you.

Which is why I feel like we can never get this reminder enough. It’s simple fact. Mistakes and failures hurt. They bruise our ego and make us feel stupid, which makes it easy to forget to look for the positive.

The thing is, mistakes and failures are a slight bit different, even though they are both equally valuable.

A mistake is something that in hindsight it’s usually easy to see or figure out what went wrong and how you can correct it.

Failures, however, don’t always present a solution in hindsight. Sometimes things just work or they don’t.

Yet we can learn from them both if we remember to look for the positive.

So, the next time you see this advice don’t roll your eyes. File it away and stockpile it for the next mistake you make, the next failure you hit. Laugh at yourself, pick yourself back up and dust yourself off, and keep moving forward.

Think of your mistakes and failures like your prized collection. Treat them like you used to treat baseball cards, action figures, or pokemon. Build that collection of mistakes, keep track of them, and treat them like the valuable gifts of knowledge that they really are.

David (Usually Dave) Szweduik is a photographer, podcaster, and all around geek from the great state of Minnesota and can be found weekly on his podcast Adventures in Creativity. There you’ll find him having conversations fueled by curiosity around the amazing world of all things creativity.

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