We all say, “It’s okay to make mistakes.” We say it in Toastmasters. We say it at work. And it’s always okay to make mistakes at home. Well, sometimes! We all say, “It’s okay to make mistakes,” but I wonder how much we really believe it? Do you really believe it?
For members of Toastmasters, when you received a speech evaluation and the evaluator says, “I have a couple of suggestions to improve your speech next time,” how do you feel? Do you exclaim, “Yes! I can’t wait to hear it!” or do you cringe behind your polite smile, dreading the next words, and exhale your relief when you find out it wasn’t so bad? Have you ever felt that? Yeah.
At work, do we rush into the boss’s office and say, “Good morning! How you doin’? I’m having a fantastic day! I made a really big mistake today, a huge mistake!” or do we usually wait a little, silently hoping problems fade away before they are discovered? Yeah.
Something isn’t making sense. A moment ago, we all agreed that it was okay to make mistakes, yet no one really likes to make them. Would it be truer to say that it’s okay to say that it’s okay to make mistakes, but not really okay to actually make them?
Think back to your childhood when you learned something new, maybe playing a musical instrument, a new language, or for me, learning how to ride my first bicycle.
The very first time I got on a bike, I felt the cool breeze in my hair, the sun warming my face... This smooth rolling world was meant for me. Then I pushed the pedal. Whoa! The wheels wobbled all over the place until I stopped on the pavement. Got up again. I kept wobbling until I got to smooth.
Hm, so what were those wobbles? Where they mistakes, because if they were… What if instead of being mistakes, those wobbles were a natural part of the learning process, not mistakes at all? If we learn from wobbles, then we want to wobble as fast as we can to get to smooth, but many of us stop because of embarrassment or it’s too much work.
In 1994, I wobbled again. I first heard about Toastmasters. Toastmasters = public speaking; public speaking = good. Sign me up. There was only one problem. Most of you were once nervous about speaking in public. While you were overcoming your fear of speaking in public I was overcoming my fear of speaking. I stuttered, sometimes so bad, I had trouble saying my own name. Answering the phone was terrifying. Fortunately for you, I failed fabulously as a telemarketer. You’ll never get a phone call from me at supper time! When I found out about Toastmasters, I signed up right away. I didn’t care. It must be done. My Icebreaker speech, I was so nervous, I peed my pants. It was a warming experience… but it didn't dampen my spirit.
I volunteered for absolutely every opportunity to wobble. I entered every speech contest. My first contest, I was so excited, I had overhead slides, handouts, props. It was amazing. It was also 13 minutes. I gave lunch and learns at work, was master of ceremonies for employee events, charity dinners, birthdays, BBQs, bar mitzvahs. I wobbled everywhere! I was a mission on a wobble!
I was turning into a new being, a new creature, I was turning into a Weeble. Just in case you don’t know, a weeble is a small toy with a fat bottom. You’ve heard that “weebles wobble, but they [don’t fall down!]” That’s right!
We need to be weebles. Weeble wobbling is the natural part of the learning process.
Let’s change from saying, “It’s okay to make mistakes,” to saying, “It’s okay to wobble through the natural learning process. Then we will wobble as fast as we can to get to smooth.”
The next time you face a challenge or something new, put your hands on your bicycle handlebars. Do it right now as you read this. Grab onto your handlebars and start to wobble. Achor the feeling inside and power your wobbles to smoothe. That’s it! You’ve got it, now, “Weeee!”
If someone asks what the heck you are doing, just say, “I’m a wild weeble who is weally willing to wobble!”