“Life can beat you up, beat you down and leave you crying in a corner.” – unknown (probably something I said)
I remember when I was a kid I always felt ready to be an adult. I’d get to make my own decisions, I’d be the law. I’d have free run.
I remember sitting down and doing the math in my head many times… “Let’s see, I’m in the 3rd grade now, that’s 5 more years of grade school, 4 years of high-school and 4 years of college. Then I’ll be the boss.” WooHoo!
My prediction mostly came true. I took 5 years to go through college. I don’t regret the extra time I took in college. But even in college I was tired of others making the rules. We were paying a fortune to have teachers boss us around and tells us what to do, when to do it and where to be. But then, finally, at graduation I was free. Or was I?…
I entered the world as a free man and found I had new task masters. A boss, bills, taxes. I was free alright. The breadth of mistakes I could make on my own accord had broadened. The pressure I felt on a daily level had increased. It was all on me. I was already locked into a new set of rules with a new set of task masters. The freedom I had imagined as a child had all been an illusion.
Mistakes were made. Nothing egregious. Nothing worthy of a publisher requesting a tell all memoir. But I made mistakes. Lots of them. Little mistakes, big mistakes, common mistakes, repeated mistakes. I would make mistakes that others had warned me about and mistakes on things I’d never even imagined I’d be faced with. But I made mistakes and I regretted them, for a while. Some of the mistakes were quite painful, pain leading to transformation. Some transformations lead to a new way to see the world. Other transformations lead to thought processes that would simply avoid getting into that situation again.
Interestingly, as time progressed and mistakes turned into wisdom, I learned one of my most valuable lessons about my mistakes. My mistakes had helped shape who I was, who I am. If you look at my life as a topographical map, my mistakes marked the points of interest. Some mistakes would be marked as the coastline, with the ocean, where I found I could not cross. Other mistakes would be marked as great mountains, that I had to find ways to toil over or circumnavigate. And some of the greatest mistakes have been turned into national parks because of the beauty that formed in their aftermath. My Grand Canyon and Yellowstone parks, if you will.
But the most interesting part about this analogy and my mistakes is that I kept getting back up and trying again. If mistake had been considered a block, something that prevented me from moving forward, the whole map would look like a tiny island surrounded by mist or oceans that could not be crossed. My life would be tiny and empty and I would be riddled with doubts and inadequacies. Instead the map of my life represents a journal of my conquests and triumphs, along with a documentary of some of my failures. But each challenge overcome is most notably described as a situation where I failed and tried again.
The best sports analogy I see when thinking about this has to do with basketball. Basketball isn’t about the number of shots you’ve missed, it’s about the number of shots you make. If you get caught up in lamenting a missed shot, you’ll lose the ball and won’t get to shoot again. You have to get your hands back on the basketball and try again. You need to take your next shot. The score at the end of the game represents the number of baskets made. But it only represents a small portion of the actually effort. Many shots are missed in order for a single shot to be made. Even an expert at the game misses shots, it’s the nature of the game. You’ve got to get your hands on the ball and take your next shot.
There are times in life when it is easy to get hung up on what you didn’t do, or where you failed. There are times in life when reflection is valuable and learning from the past is beneficial. But you can’t move forward, you can’t advance the score and keep the game moving, unless you take your next shot. You are master of your destiny. You are in charge now. Get yourself up, dust yourself off, get in the game.
Make mistakes, it is all part of the game.
Take your next shot.