A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.

A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.

John C. Maxwell

When you discover that you were wrong, how long does it take you to own it?

I see this quality in myself and others and have found it to be a very important metric in life. 

We are all fallible. Some of us (me) tend to be wrong more often than we might admit. In these experiences lie our pathway to growth, if we are humble enough to see the experience for what it is, learn from it and emerge on the other side wiser and more capable. 

Many times this is simple. Empirical knowledge (hot, don’t touch!) is a prime example. Once you have burned yourself by touching something too hot, you are (perhaps) wise enough not to make the same mistake (at least in that circumstance). Other lessons come at a considerably higher price. One that carries a toll that (once paid) is far more difficult to resolve. 

We are quick to respond under stressful circumstances. A moment escalates to a boiling point, and before we know it, we have either blurted out a response, or texted similar to our own considerable detriment. 

In these moments, a business or personal relationship may be won or lost. Things may be communicated that will never be forgotten (even despite promises to the contrary).

I think every one of us has a moment that can come back instantly with this prompt that gives us cause to flinch with the totally inappropriate response we used that caused whatever it was that we were discussing to fall apart on the spot.

I have discovered that I may not be the very best at always “not saying the right thing,” but, when given ample time for reflection, I am willing to return to the discussion, own my mistake and work to rectify the situation to one of manageable outcomes. I have wondered whether (in part) this is due to being an only child. When I did something wrong as a child, there was no sibling to blame anything on. If I was learning how to throw a lasso in the house and I happened to catch a plaster of Paris bust of Lincoln (bought in Tijuana) and dragged it toward me, then when mom and dad came home to find the pieces of the (former) statue on the ground, trying to blame it on an imaginary brother was just not going to carry any weight in reducing my sentence.

Admitting the wrongdoing is a major step. Learning from it and adapting one’s behavior going forward is the true measure of maturity in this equation. If insanity is defined by repeatedly doing the exact same thing, expecting a different outcome, then clearly the sane solution is to change one’s behavior so as to ensure a new and more desirable outcome will (probably) await.

But if one is entrenched in their behavior patterns, changing something is not always as easy as it appears. The path to correcting this is to install a mental flashcard that precedes the behavior by sparking with the stimuli and raising its proverbial hand before you  react and respond. That flashcard has to be solid and have true merit. It has to shine like a beacon of a promise for a better outcome, and overwhelm that inner desire to do what we have done previously. Many things fuel such a flashcard. It can be installed as a direct result of pain that we have experienced from prior attempts. If my parents had believed in spankings (they did not) then the whipping I would have received for breaking the statue would be the reminder that would preclude me from doing similar in the future. My parents used honor and shame as the tools for such discipline and the knowledge that I was letting them down if I did it again was the proverbial pain that precluded my opting to do the same in the future. 

In personal relationships we might be more prone to venture outside of the acceptable responses, and perhaps that explains why so many marriages fail. In those circumstances, emotions get the better of us and things are blurted out that should never have been said… and will never be forgotten. I have watched some people cycle through the same set of circumstances in a few relationships that they have tried to make work, and continuously end up in the same place due to a lack of personal discipline of not repeating the same behaviors that caused the prior relationship to fail. 

Learning from our mistakes requires humility and contrition. It requires an understanding that we are not perfect, nor will we ever be. It forces us (if we are smart) to look directly at our shortcomings and see them for the destructive variables that they provide in our world. This is neither pleasant, nor desirable. But, if we wish to escape the insanity of our continuous determination to be right at all costs, it is the only solution to rise to higher ground. It requires daily attention, mindfulness of where we have failed previously, and a strong will to implant that flashcard that stops us in our tracks before we act or say something in a manner that causes irreparable damage. Only when we have learned and mastered these lessons may we find ourselves profiting from them.

Happy Wednesday!

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Written by Brian Weiner
When I was 5 years old, I discovered that the lemon tree in the backyard + dixie cups + water and sugar and I was in business. I have been hooked on that ever since. In 1979, I borrowed $14,000 to create a brand new product... photographic greeting cards with no text on the inside, called Paradise Photography. That was the start of The Illusion Factory. Since then, The Illusion Factory has been entrusted by all of the major studios and broadcasters with the advertising and marketing of over $7 billion in filmed, live, broadcast, gaming, AR, VR and regulated gaming forms of entertainment, generating more than $100 Billion in revenue and 265 awards for creativity and technology for our clients. When I took a break from film school at UCLA to move to Hawaii, my mother did not lecture me. Instead, she took 150 of her favorite aphorisms and in her beautiful calligraphy, wrote them artistically throughout a blank journal. That is the origin of the Lessons from the Mountain series. Since then, on my journeys to the top of a mountain to watch the sunrise, I have spent countless hours contemplating words of wisdom from the sages of all races, genders and political persuasions, constantly accumulating the thoughts to guide me on my life path. I hope you enjoy my books. Please let me know your thoughts, as I highly value your feedback!