"What we do know is, if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original -- if you're not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way. We stigmatize mistakes. And we're now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make."

- Ken Robinson, TED talk, 2006

Chapter 7

Do you have the courage to make mistakes openly?


For many of us, one of our greatest fears is of making a fool of ourselves unintentionally in front of others. The very concept makes us feel most uncomfortable and as a consequence we will do almost anything to avoid it happening. One way is to avoid the possibility of making mistakes openly. In fact, sometimes we will go to extreme lengths to avoid admitting a mistake in order to 'save face'.

The sad fact  is that most people will see through the facade so no-one is fooled anyway. Indeed the people we often feel most at ease with are those who happily laugh at themselves when they have made a mistake. It reflects an ease with themselves. Admitting  that we have made a mistake means accepting that we won't always get it right and that's OK. In fact it couldn't be more normal.

Below are some excellent talks that embrace this issue and many of the contributing factors.

Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson, a leading educational specialist, gave two poignant and amusing talks at TED about the state of our education system and in the second talk, he spoke about our fear of getting things wrong. Both talks are very relevant to education today and both are well worth watching. The quote above is from the first of these talks.

Broken Glass

My reference to broken glass is very poignant. ‘“I never realized that broken glass could shine so brightly”. I heard these words in a sermon many years ago.

Not long after I had heard this, one of my brothers died in a car accident. I visited the crash site and what struck me was that amongst all the debris of the event, the glass from the shattered windows shone so brightly in the sunlight. I was very moved by the sight of it and to this day have one of those pieces of glass which was shining so brightly when I picked it up, very much like the light he radiated throughout his life.

Charles Handy

Charles Handy is an author, teacher and philosopher who has written 19 books. He is a specialist in organisational behaviour and management. His great skill has been the ability to break down business concepts and to see a new way of moving forward effectively with a moral vibrancy. His whole emphasis has been on being rather than doing in the workplace. His audio book of his ‘Thoughts for the day’ remains one of my most treasured possessions. A book was published of those thoughts which is available on Amazon.

The following is a video of a talk he gave on the Qualities of Vision and Leadership at the Peter Drucker Centennial Celebration in 2010.


The following is a link to a video of Charles giving the Trinity Horne Winter lecture on 'The Shape of Life to Come'.  

Brene Brown

Brene Brown gave two amazing talks about vulnerability and shame on TED which are both well worth watching. What the talks convey is the extraordinary reluctance we all feel for showing our vulnerability to others. We see it as a weakness and as a result we avoid revealing it, fearing that it will directly affect their perception of us and as such we may well go down in their estimation. My experience is that when we do reveal our insecurities, two things happen;

a) People have a new-found respect for you (since they are also reluctant to show theirs) and

b) They often feel compelled to reveal their insecurities to you as a result.

Enjoy these two videos. She has also published several books, ‘Daring Greatly’ and ‘I thought it was just me’ being two of them, which are available from Amazon. 

Churchill’s Coalition Government

The details of Churchill's Coalition Government during World War Two can be found at this link.