Last week as I listened to my business coaching call, I found myself rushing to scribble down some words of wisdom that particularly spoke to me. Ryan was talking about the fact that all highly successful business people and leaders have some traits in common: namely that they are unafraid to take bold action, and they see taking imperfect action as better than taking no action at all.
Successful people don’t view mistakes as failure, but rather as information and learning opportunities.There is an element of playfulness to their approach, and a willingness to keep moving forward in the face of obstacles.
For some reason, this made me think of J., probably because at 21 months of age, he is the embodiment of these principles in action. Have you ever noticed that toddlers seem to approach most everything in life with gusto? They just live full out, and go for what they want. They don’t let inexperience or lack of knowing how stop them. They may encounter obstacles along the way, and they may literally run into walls and experience frustration, but most of the time they don’t give up. The difference between a lot of adults and most toddlers is that adults have often forgotten what they used to know as young children- which is that mistakes don’t equal failure.
Let me paint you a word picture that illustrates: J. literally spent hours last week trying to conquer climbing up onto the coach by himself, which is no small feat for someone who is barely taller than the 18 inches he had to scale to make it up on his own.
Now, what was interesting to me was that this was a self chosen challenge, and one he could have achieved easily by moving his small plastic step stool close to the couch and using it as a tool to boost him up, which he knows how to do, and had done many times before.Nope, that would be far too easy. He wanted a new challenge.
So I stood patiently by, and refrained from giving direction, suggestions, or a hand up, while he struggled valiantly to figure out how to conquer the climb up to the coach. He tried several techniques that just didn’t work. There was a lot of grunting, and sometimes he stopped and turned to me to complain. I acknowledged that he seemed to be working hard, and that it wasn’t easy. This seemed to be all he needed to carry on.
Eventually, he achieved his goal. I wish you could have seen the look of joy in his eyes when he turned to me with a big grin, as if to say, “Look, I did it.” Was he content to have achieved his goal? Yes, but he wasn’t content to rest on his laurels. No sooner had I returned his smile than he went scrabbling down to try again, and again, and again, and again, and…. until he had perfected his technique. I could only marvel at his determination and perseverance.
This is why I love being in the company of toddlers. My wish for J. is that he will always be so self motivated and persistent and take such pleasure in his learning. And my wish for myself and any adult that may have forgotten that mistakes are just opportunities to try again, is that we always have a toddler around to remind us of this truth!