Make More Mistakes

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

“Abraham Lincoln became America’s greatest Precedent. Lincoln’s mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. When Lincoln was President, he wore only a tall silk hat. He said, ‘In onion there is strength.’ Abraham Lincoln write the Gettysburg address while traveling from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope. He also signed the Emasculation Proclamation, and the Fourteenth Amendment gave the ex-Negroes citizenship. But the Clue Clux Clan would torcher and lynch the ex-Negroes and other innocent victims. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposedly insane actor. This ruined Booth’s career.”

— From a compilation of student bloopers and mistakes, attributed to Richard Lederer. (Source: http://www.innocentenglish.com)

Now that you’ve hopefully had a good laugh, let’s get serious about “mistakes.” Human beings are deeply flawed in two respects. First, we make countless mistakes every day. No surprise, right? The curious part is why we harbor fears about making more. Fear of imperfection is the second and far greater flaw.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” — Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)

“To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all.” — Peter McWilliams, Life 101

 

“If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake.” — Frank Wilczek (1951- )

We fear mistakes because it reveals that we are imperfect.  But, everyone already knows that. So why do we think that makes us look bad?

“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” — Henry C. Link

“I have learned the novice can often see things that the expert overlooks. All that is necessary is not to be afraid of making mistakes, or of appearing naive.” — Abraham Maslow, Psychologist

“Assert your right to make a few mistakes. If people can’t accept your imperfections, that’s their fault.” — Dr. David M. Burns

Mistakes should be welcomed and valued because they are opportunities to learn and improve.

“Mistakes, obviously, show us what needs improving. Without mistakes, how would we know what we had to work on?” — Peter McWilliams, Life 101

“An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats failures simply as practice shots.” — Charles Franklin Kettering, inventor

What we learn from our mistakes they will guide us and nudge us along the path toward success.

“If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.” — Tallulah Bankhead (1903-1968 )

“If I had my life to live over… I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.” — Nadine Stair

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t as all. You can be discouraged by failure – or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember, that’s where you will find success.” — Thomas J. Watson

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

“It’s a sad day when you find out that it’s not accident or time or fortune, but just yourself that kept things from you.” — Lillian Hellman (1905-1984)

If we are wise and able to suppress our arrogance, it is also possible to learn from the mistakes of others.

“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” — Sam Levenson (1911-1980)

To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes, the wise and the good learn wisdom for the future.” — Plutarch, Historian

Still, one’s own mistakes handled professionally are the best-learned lessons.

Don’t argue for other people’s weaknesses. Don’t argue for your own. When you make a mistake, admit it, correct it, and learn from it immediately.” — Stephen R. Covey, Author and Speaker

“It’s always helpful to learn from your mistakes because then your mistakes seem worthwhile.” — Garry Marshall, ‘Wake Me When It’s Funny’

There are proper and improper responses to mistakes.

“Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. Laughing at someone else’s can shorten it.” — Cullen Hightower

“When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.” — Paul “Bear” Bryant, “I Ain’t Never Been Nothing but a Winner”

History has proven there’s an undeniable connection between mistakes and innovation.

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” — James Joyce (1882-1941)

“He who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” — Samuel Smiles

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” — Steve Jobs

Here’s the lesson. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, then commit to improvement. As long as your intentions were moral and ethical and your efforts were careful and thorough, there is no valid reason to feel guilty about a mistake, even if it caused harm. Of course when harm has occurred the whole matter of forgiveness and reparations must take place. After that, there’s not much else you can do but move on and do better.

“How unhappy is he who cannot forgive himself.” — Publilius Syrus (~100 BC)

“Life is an adventure in forgiveness.” — Norman Cousins (1915-1990)

“Forgiveness does not always lead to a healed relationship. Some people are not capable of love, and it might be wise to let them go along with your anger. Wish them well, and let them go their way.” — Real Live Preacher, RealLivePreacher.com Weblog, July 7, 2003

The worst thing is to allow one mistake to turn into more.

“A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.” — Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC)

“If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.” — Mary Pickford (1893-1979)

Accepting our limits and imperfections as humans is not the same as being cavalier about mistakes. Errors are inevitable and they are serious business. Learning to deal properly with mistakes is the mark of a professional.

“Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life” — Sophia Loren

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright October 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Dress Up

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

This topic is challenging because there are so many opinions on what constitutes professional attire and a lot of acceptable variations depending on the industry, company, day of the week, business function and more. Fortunately for you, I have acquired extensive expertise in this area through my circle of friends, who represent some of the most fashion-aware people in America, including: barbershop singers, professors, scientists, computer geeks, senior citizens and golfers. 😉

“Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it’s open to anybody who owns hideous clothing.” — Dave Barry

Professional Dress is a Matter of Respect

As with all areas of professionalism, attitude is at the core. In the case of dressing professionally, the specific attitude is respect. Respect yourself with the way you dress and your overall attitude of professionalism will rise to a new level.

“Put even the plainest woman into a beautiful dress and unconsciously she will try to live up to it.” — Lady Duff-Gordon (1863-1935)

The way you dress broadcasts to others how you see yourself. Thus, the adage, “Dress for Success.”

“Keeping your clothes well pressed will keep you from looking hard pressed.” — Coleman Cox

Dressing with respect includes good hygiene. At the risk of stating the obvious, here is my list of keywords: soap, razor, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, cologne, comb and nail clippers. Mom was right when she told you to wash behind the ears, comb your hair, brush your teeth and trim your nails. In case mom’s not around to check up on you, here’s a tip. If you draw blood when shaking hands, it’s time to trim your nails.

“Cleanliness and order are not matters of instinct; they are matters of education, and like most great things, you must cultivate a taste for them.” — Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

Your GPS

Style and Professionalism

Like medicine, more is not always better. Overdressing can have a negative effect on your image, although I believe that erring slightly on the side of overdressing will create fewer problems than the reverse.

“Looks are part of business. A businessman should never stand out more than his customers. His mannerisms, his clothes, everything about him… Moderation is the key.” — Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata, Animal Crossing: Wild World, 2005

A stylish wardrobe can be important when it comes to color combinations, width of neckties, ensembles, buttons, stitching, fabric, creases and pleats and accessories. On the other hand, dressing professionally often requires rejection of other aspects of fashion.

“In your clothes avoid too much gaudiness; do not value yourself upon an embroidered gown; and remember that a reasonable word, or an obliging look, will gain you more respect than all your fine trappings.” — Sir George Savile, ‘Advice to a Daughter,’ 1688

“Fashion is the science of appearances, and it inspires one with the desire to seem rather than to be.” — Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592)

For women, there is a difference between attractive and sexy. Displaying cleavage, thighs, and/or a bare midriff is unprofessional for most careers (if you get my point.)

“If you’re not selling, you shouldn’t be advertising.” -– Donald P. Nock (1928-2000), teacher and coach

A career woman who wants to be respected for her mind, capabilties and personality should not direct unnecessary attention to her looks by wearing clothing that looks like its been painted on her. Going easy on make-up and perfume is also good advice.

Accessorize with Care

For simplicity, I’ll define accessories as everything except clothing that people see and use to judge another person including: handbag, briefcase, car, jewelry and hair. Let’s be honest, body piercings, excessive and gaudy tattoos and outrageous hairstyles are not an advantage in most fields. These things may cause people to look at you and they may make a fashion statement. But, you have to be twice as good to overcome the first impression you make with these nontraditional accessories.

Your car is an accessory, too. More important than make and model are operability and cleanliness. A BMW that rattles, spews black smoke and is filled with food wrappers can’t compete with a shiny new and clean economy car.

Professional Appearance is a Choice

You might be thinking, “Well, this really isn’t who I am. I’m not a ‘suit and tie kinda person.’” I would counter that there isn’t a gene that defines how you dress, take care of yourself or conduct your business affairs. These are choices available to everyone.

Next, you might be thinking this is going to be hard. What’s the alternative?

“Doing nothing is very hard to do … you never know when you’re finished.” — Leslie Nielsen

Think about which path to success is hardest. The first way is to make the necessary changes in yourself to project professional image. The second way is to make no personal changes and devote your energies to convince everyone that you are a professional in spite of your unprofessional appearance. In other words, change thousands of opinions. The third option is to choose a profession which demands less in the way of appearance.

“My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Imagine That!

Some people face difficulty and ask, “Why me?” Others ask, “What if …?” What is the difference? What separates the complainers from the rest? Part of the answer lies in attitude. It’s the old optimist vs. pessimist comparison. But, there is a second differentiator. These others have learned to listen and see with their imaginations.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge…” — Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

“To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything.” — Anatole France (1844 – 1924)

[Here’s a quick side trip to poke a little fun at my friends who are engaged in politics. 😉 ] There are also those skilled at inventing or discovering problems. I’m sure it is mere coincidence that these same people just happen to have a solution for these terrible problems the rest of us knew nothing about. (Is there an emoticon for sarcasm?)

“We may not imagine how our lives could be more frustrating and complex–but Congress can.” — Cullen Hightower

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.” — Ernest Benn

Imagination produces ideas, the seeds of change. Granted not all change is necessary or good. That’s why we have the editorial page and the marketplace – to help separate the good ideas from the bad ones. I wonder how much greater America could become if idle imaginations were turned up a notch or two.

“Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future.” — Charles F. Kettering

The rising cost of oil is a challenge as well as an opportunity perfectly suited for our imaginations. While some are whining and demanding government action, others are busy solving the problem for themselves by driving less or changing to a more efficient vehicle. Then, there are the imaginative folks who are working behind the scenes to solve the problem for many.

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” — George Bernard Shaw

What will the result be? Innovation! I’m sure we’ve heard rumors about engines that use water for fuel and cars that run 100 miles on a gallon of gas. This so-called “oil crisis” is an opportunity to develop a more efficient car and/or alternative fuel.

Some accuse oil companies of profiting unfairly from the high gas prices. If this is true, there’s another opportunity – buy oil stocks.

What about alternative forms of transportation like mass transit, motorcycles, bicycles, walking, and that two-wheeled, electric, gyroscope-controlled device made by Segway? For those who see and hear with their imaginations, there is no end to the opportunities.

“You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” — Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Pointing our imaginations in a different direction, “what if” there were a technology that could make some types of travel obsolete? Imagine a technology that enables face-to-face communication without traveling. Such technology exists today in the form of a VoIP video phone. “What if” a person or a company got the word out about this technology and people started using it to for distance learning, business discussions and extra “visits” with grandma?

Rising travel costs might become the stimulus that reinvigorates our neighborhoods. Maybe people will stay home more and we’ll see a renaissance of picnics in the park, neighborhood block parties and folks sitting on the porch sharing a cup of coffee with a neighbor. Could the gas crunch revive the corner market and give a boost to telecommuting and home-based careers?

“To imagine the unimaginable is the highest use of the imagination.” — Cynthia Ozick

“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.
If you can dream it, you can become it.”

— William Arthur Ward

Every problem is an opportunity. Imagine that!

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright July 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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