I was out running errands with my lovely wife and we did our usual routine: I drop her off at the grocery store, then go take the recycling and do any other small tasks before coming back to pick her up. Today, my extra task was taking an AT&T modem back to the Fedex office to return it.
I pulled into the Fedex parking lot and stepped out of my car, carrying my phone, the modem and it’s power supply. I subconsciously checked for the weight of my keys in my left pocket and then knocked the car door shut with my hips.
Just to be safe, I tapped my left thigh to make sure the keys were in there.
That’s when my heart sank. The weight in my left pocket wasn’t my keys. It was my pocket knife that I bring along to cut apart cardboard boxes for recycling.
I turned back to the car and looked in the window. Sure enough, my keys were sitting there on the driver’s seat.
I pulled on the handle… locked.
“Oh please no…”
I checked all the other doors… all locked.
The whole time, my keys just sat there in plain sight, staring back at me. Mocking me. So visible, yet unreachable.
I felt like an idiot.
After running around and making a few phone calls, I had to bite the bullet and call an emergency locksmith to get my keys out of the car. I probably could have figured out a solution, but I didn’t want to leave my wife stranded at the store for too long.
It’s funny how $40 feels so painful when you feel like it was a useless mistake.
If you’re still reading, you might be wondering, why am I telling you this story?
While I sat and waited for the locksmith to arrive, I stared off into space and thought about my mistake. There is nothing that I hate more than having to pay (even a small amount) for something I could have avoided by not being so dumb. It pains me to no end.
I tried to rack my brain for some sort of lesson I could learn from this. God puts trials in our lives for a reason, so he must be teaching me something here right?
Unfortunately, I left with no epiphanies. No brilliant lessons that made it all feel better. Just a dumb mistake that made me feel like an idiot.
But as I thought about it, I thought, maybe that is the lesson?
Don’t let mistakes beat you.
Sometimes in your creative career, you make dumb mistakes like this. It can be very frustrating.
Maybe you forgot to save a file and you lost a bunch of progress. Maybe you completely under-estimated the time something would take and you now have an angry client and a busted budget. Maybe you had an off week and delivered work that just simply wasn’t good.
All of these things can happen and it’s easy to make excuses or try to blame other people. It’s easy to blame the client or blame the computer instead of taking responsibility.
But, it’s also easy to beat yourself up.
When you can’t blame anyone other than yourself, it’s very easy to get discouraged and down in the dumps. Unfortunately, beating yourself up doesn’t solve any problems.
Instead, you can look at these mistakes as a crucial part of the learning process. Look at them as opportunities to accept responsibility, step back, address the problem, correct your path, and move forward.
If you let a simple mistake ruin your day, you risk it ruining your progress. If you recognize mistakes as part of the process, you can learn from them and grow faster because of them.
This brings me to the main point for this weeks email.
Learning isn’t linear.
The process of learning and growing in your creative career is not a linear one. When you feel like you’re taking a step backwards, you probably aren’t.
You might be on downward part of the slope, but you’re still moving forward. As long as the overall trend is upwards, you’re going in the right direction.
The next time you feel like you’re having a down day, don’t give up. You might feel like everyone around you is so much more skilled than you, and you can’t even make something look good without following a tutorial. Or maybe all the creative work you’re making feels like garbage and all you see on Instagram is incredible work from beautiful people. Or you just made a dumb mistake and you feel like a failure.
Just remember, this is part of the process.
Learn what you can and get back out there.
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