Fourth of Six New Year’s Resolutions that will Change Your Life
Make mistakes.I can hear you now. “Have you lost your mind, Jeff?”
No, I haven’t. And yes, I’m asking you to make mistakes in 2020. To be more explicit, I’m telling you that if you don’t make mistakes, then you’re not really doing your job.

“If you have the guts to keep making mistakes, your wisdom and intelligence leap forward with huge momentum.”
— Holly Near

I think our natural tendency is to play it safe. It takes “something extra” for a person to take a risk and fall flat on his face. Look – of course no one sets out to make mistakes. But if you want to break through with your work, you have to walk through that fire of fear and risk failure.
And when you do, one of two things will happen: 1) you will become wildly successful, or 2) you will fail, but at the same time you will have learned an incredible lesson and moved forward.
Both of these things have a positive outcome.

“It’s amazing how much more you can learn by making mistakes than you can by making perfect decisions.”
(source unknown)

I see so many MGOs and development professionals working hard to maintain the status quo. They’ve figured out how to keep their jobs with a minimal amount of risk. They’ve worked the system to their advantage and do “just enough” to get by.
This is wrong on so many levels. I can’t imagine that this would be you, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog – but I’ll bet you know people like this. It’s really sad. I firmly believe that this happens because somewhere down the line some poor person was hammered by a manager who punished him for taking a risk, making a mistake, or failing at something.
And when that happened, he shut down. He stopped trying new things, stopped being creative and bold and looking for new opportunities. Essentially, he stopped making mistakes, which kept his job intact, but he also stopped living!

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
— George Barnard Shaw

As you’re sitting down this week and setting some goals, I urge you to aim high, take some risks and move beyond what you think is possible. Richard and I have actually been doing this recently when we were doing our strategic planning for 2020. We created some initial revenue goals… then we stretched them! Yes, it’s a bit scary, but it’s also exhilarating, and it pushes us to think big.
Are we going to make mistakes? You bet we are, but we made a ton of them last year and we’ve learned from them, which allowed us to be bolder this year.

“Everything we enjoy in society is a direct result of the accumulated learning derived from millions of mistakes. No mistakes, no progress. Yet we still look at making a mistake as embarrassing, wrong, an act bordering on sin. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re doing new things, taking risks, stretching yourself. You’re growing, learning. And isn’t the journey, the experience, not the destination, what life is all about?”
— Robert White

2020 is the year for making mistakes. Get out there and be bold. For it’s in the making of those mistakes that you know you’re taking risks and learning so much more about your work and your life. (Tweet it!)
Read the whole series, Six New Year’s Resolutions that will Change Your Life:

New Year’s Resolution #1: Resolve to Serve Your Donor, Don’t Sell Them
New Year’s Resolution #2: Resolve to Love Your Work!
New Year’s Resolution #3: Resolve to Set Goals!
New Year’s Resolution #4: Resolve to Make Mistakes (This post)
New Year’s Resolution #5: Resolve to be More Curious – Ask More Questions
New Year’s Resolution #6: Resolve to Seek Joy!

This post was originally published as we began 2012.