Turning Mistakes Into Miracles
We all make mistakes from time to time.
All of us! Not a single one of us is immune.
I have made so many mistakes in my life and most of them were my own fault.
Stretching from romantic or relationship blunders to even huge mistakes in my business.
I’ve said yes when I should have said no, and I’ve said no when I should have said yes.
Luckily Mistakes can Usually be Corrected
Luckily, most times when we screw up, the consequences of our mistakes aren’t usually too bad, or they’re something we can recover from pretty easily.
Sure, We might feel a little embarrassed and hope nobody noticed. But more often than not, life just goes on, and the world neither notices nor cares that we messed up.
And, when you hear the word miracle, chances are you picture the birth of a child, a remarkable survival story from some awful tragedy, or various other remarkable events that make front-page headlines from time to time.
The idea of mistakes fitting into this category is probably pretty foreign in your mind.
But, when you stop and consider all of the wonderful occurrences brought about almost single handedly by a mistake, the paradigm begins to shift in such a way that allows us to understand the value of problems and errors that naturally occur in life.
Let’s just Look at some Mistakes that have Turned out to Change the World.
Surely some of these will help encourage you that mistakes are OK and not to let the fear of them stop you from going after your own goals and pursuits.
According to the New World Encyclopedia, penicillin has currently saved almost 200 million lives.
The discovery of this wonderful medical intervention has literally changed the course of not only the healthcare field, but history in general.
It makes sense to believe that discovering penicillin occurred over the course of years of cutting edge research in the world’s greatest laboratory, a product brought about by the work of many brilliant minds.
In 1928, Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming left several petri dishes in his laboratory unwashed and exposed overnight. I guess he was tired and had a long day.
But when he came in the next day, he noticed that the dishes had already been contaminated and had begun growing patches of bacteria.
But because he had an open mind, he was able to see something different.
Curiously, one of the dishes contained a patch of mold that, upon further observation, had prevented bacterial growth entirely.
Fleming was then able to isolate an extract from the mold to create the monumental drug known as penicillin.
The BC Medical Journal outlines the fascinating story of how the pacemaker, one of the most remarkable devices ever to grace the field of modern medicine came to be.
In the 1940’s, Canadian engineer John Hopps was attempting to create a method of pasteurizing beer using radiofrequency heating.
Truth is, he was very passionate regarding his beer project, and considered it a waste of time when he was transferred to the Banting Institute in Toronto to explore the possibility of using his heating method in cardiac surgery.
At the time, several cardiac surgeons had begun using hypothermia in the operating room in order to slow the heart down enough to perform open-heart surgery.
The problem with this method was that below a certain temperature, the heart would stop beating entirely.
This was obviously an issue with patients preferring to survive the surgery.
Hopps suggested the idea that applying the same electrical impulses he had begun to utilize in his pasteurizing process may actually cause the heart to contract.
When this proved true, it was discovered that these same impulses, when applied in the appropriate rhythm, could actually reproduce the same contraction frequency of a human heartbeat!
This was the catalyst to the series of events that led to the invention of the pacemaker that we know today.
So, let’s get out of the medical field here.
We can’t leave out the miraculous mistake that led to the discovery of super glue!
During World War 2, Dr. Harry Coover was involved in a project to create a new type of gun sight made from a clear, plastic like material.
Researchers ended up giving up on the project because the substance was too difficult to work with.
It stuck to literally anything it came into contact with.
Years later, while working on aviation products, Coover thought back to this pesky substance that had given him so much grief during his previous research.
One thing led to another, and Coover experienced his eureka moment, leading him to commercialize super glue, which was then used at the time to save countless vases and ceramic decorations from being knocked off of the table while passing food around the dinner table.
Somehow if the song had gone: “A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing! Everyone knows it’s Industrial Equipment Stabilizers,” it wouldn’t have been quite as catchy.
Yet that was the intended use of the springs naval engineer Richard James was developing in 1943.
The sensitive springs were meant to keep fragile equipment steady on ships.
Then James knocked one of his new springs from a shelf and, like a kid on Christmas morning, watched it do that famous Slinky walk down instead of just hitting the ground.
He took the creation home to show his wife, Betty, who saw the potential for a new toy.
After consulting the dictionary, a name sprung (sorry) to mind: Slinky, a Swedish term meaning “sleek and sinuous.”
By time the toy was demonstrated in front of Gimbels Department Store in Philadelphia, during the 1945 Christmas season, it was clear it was going to be a big hit.
The industrial machine James had could coil 80 feet of wire into two inches, and hundreds of Slinkys were already being sold.
That’s not all, either: The Slinky has found other uses, including as an antenna by soldiers in Vietnam and as a therapy tool.
Whatever the use, everyone knows it’s Slinky.
You know how when you’re done with a Post-it note, you throw it in the wastebasket?
Yeah, that was pretty much what Spencer Silver almost did when he was trying to develop a super strong adhesive for 3M laboratories in 1968 and came up way short.
Instead, he had invented the opposite: an adhesive that stuck to objects but could be easily lifted off.
Silver raved about the potential uses of his new, sort-of-weak glue around 3M for years, all to deaf ears.
Finally, a colleague named Art Fry attended one of Silver’s seminars in 1974 (3M has long been known for encouraging employees to step outside of their own departments to see what people in other areas of the company are doing).
Fry saw a use where no one else did: holding his page in his hymnbook, which his bookmarks kept falling out of.
And when you added Silver’s mild adhesive to paper bookmarks, a rudimentary Post-it Note was born.
3M finally agreed to distribute the Post-it Notes nationwide in 1980, a decade after Silver had first stumbled upon the formula.
Thirty years later, they are as important to our office as the stapler.
Mistakes are Part of Growth
So, making mistakes is not only necessary part of our lives, but those mistakes are also the essence of new learning.
I talk about this all the time, but it’s so important that we work to cultivate a growth mindset within ourselves.
Mistakes can actually help us develop and improve our skills and abilities.
Sometimes they even show us new ways to do things or do things differently!
And maybe even more important, mistakes help us to remember that all of our efforts, whatever they come to or don’t come to, are how we meet the game of life each day.
The more passionately we play in life, the more we get out of it.
But that invariably means more, not fewer, screw-ups and even some mistakes of colossal proportion.
Now I’d Love to Hear from You.
So how about you?
Do you have a story of a mistake that became a miracle?
What kinds of things do you do to keep your mind open to making mistakes and learning from them?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
I would love to hear your stories.
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