Forget the Mistake, Remember the Lesson

There are times that we allow the fear of making mistakes or failing stop us from even trying. There is even a word that is used to describe this phobia – atychiphobia. However, making mistakes can be a good thing. Mistakes help you learn and provide experience that you wouldn’t have gained otherwise. Making mistakes can even at times be great! Many things in history were invented by mistake. Most of them were initially considered to be epic failures, but would soon be discovered as some of the world’s greatest inventions.

An example of this happened in 1943, a naval engineer Richard T. James was working to invent a meter that could monitor power on naval battleships. When all of a sudden he knocked over a spring, and it neatly uncoiled itself, and kept bouncing its way down from the shelf onto a pile of books, onto a tabletop, and finally onto the floor. Although the Navy was not interested in James’ springs, his wife thought it could be used to entertain as a toy. After two more years of development, the first batch of 400 ‘Slinky’ toys sold out in just 90 minutes. Today, the ‘Slinky’ is not only found in kids playrooms but teachers use them to demonstrate the properties of waves, the military has used them as mobile radio antennas, and NASA has used them in zero gravity experiments. 

Another example of an epic failure becoming a success occurred in 1968, when a 3M chemist named Dr. Spencer Silver was trying to invent a super-strong adhesive. He got it completely wrong and actually invented a super-weak adhesive, which could only be used to temporarily stick things together. 3M (also known as Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing and the makers of Scotch Tape) thought there was really no use for it and it sat unused for 5 years. It wasn’t until 1973 that Silver’s was approached by a colleague Art Fry, who had attended one of Silver’s seminars, that they had an idea of the perfect use for it. During his Wednesday night choir practice at his church, Fry would bookmark his hymnbook with pieces of paper, but by Sunday morning the bookmarks would have all fallen out. “I thought what I need is a bookmark that would stick to the paper without falling off but also not damage the sheets,” said Fry. After a lot of convincing, 3M agreed to test it out on the market. It took 12 years from when Silver invented the technology behind the product, to ‘Post-Its’ hitting the market. Now ‘Post-It Notes’ can be found everywhere in many different colors, shapes and sizes.  

A third example occurred in 1905, when 11 year old Frank Epperson invented the first popsicle. He had accidentally left a container of powdered soda and water, with a mixing stick inside, on his porch overnight. After one extraordinarily cold night in San Francisco, the popsicle was born. Epperson would make them for his family and friends and finally decided to patent it in 1923. 

So next time you have the opportunity to try something and get nervous about making a mistake, fight through those nerves and give it a shot. Challenge yourself to go outside of your comfort zone. Often times we are dealt adversity and it is really a sign to shift your focus. Who knows if something you think of as an epic fail actually points you in the direction of your next big success. For this weeks #MakeItHappen Monday, push yourself to try something despite the fear of failure or making a mistake. Let us know about your greatest mistakes and email us at or share your story and tag us on social.

Go make it happen,  
Luly & the YTeach Team

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
– Wayne Gretzky

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