Asked to design the kitchen for a great banquet Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519) set about a master plan. What was meant to be a kitchen that ran like clockwork actually turned out to be a complete mess. The great ox, whose job it was to walk around in circles and drive the pumps that pushed water around the room, was not a tidy solution. Originally this used to take 10 men with buckets to make sure that the kitchen had enough water and instead it took 15 men to clean up after the ox.
The kitchen furnace worked so well that it became too hot and fires broke out throughout the room. It wasn’t long before the kitchen was in chaos. This was to have been one of Da Vinci’s finest moments and yet the project went far from well, but he learnt a lot from this fiasco. He was known by many as a renowned painter but he was also a sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer and inventor. He was driven by an unquenchable curiosity. But he was human and Da Vinci made many outrageous mistakes. These were sometimes referred to as ‘minor errors of a major genius’ and, importantly, he learnt from those mistakes.
What wonderfully outrageous mistakes have you made lately?
Have you ever listened to the jazz music of the famous Charlie Parker (1920 – 1955) known as ‘Bird’? He was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop jazz characterised by fast tempos, virtuosic technique and improvisation. Although often said to be unsurpassed, when he played the saxophone it was like a roller coaster of thrills, because at any moment he could slip and the wild ride would be over. Check it out now, if you think you may not like Bebop Jazz do take a listen, strap yourself in and go along for the ride.
Have you ever heard his music track called ‘Breath’? As spellbinding as Charlie could be, some of his outtakes were not just bad, they were downright outrageously bad.
Have you detected yet that there’s a theme starting to emerge here?
We all make mistakes, however, it’s possible that we may not be making big enough mistakes, not taking risks and in fact playing it a little too safe.
Playing it safe and the deep rut of life
Willing to attempt the impossible both Da Vinci and Charlie Parker knew that mistakes were worth making and that if you are going to make a blunder, make sure it’s a good one.
We know that making and recognising mistakes teaches us lessons, so why don’t we want to make more? I have a suspicion that it is partly down to not having big scary goals.
The aim of a wonderful part of our brain called the unconscious mind is to seek out goals. Once a goal is determined the unconscious mind will follow the direction to take action to make it happen, but it knows that we will need to have certain lessons en route in order to achieve that goal.
Inevitably, we don’t always like the lessons that confront us (i.e. the mistakes we make) and consequently, we can change our minds partway through to start a new goal. This then is the key to making the right type of mistakes and more of them.
How to make more mistakes
The steps to making more mistakes:
- Set a goal that scares you
- Take action every day
- Carry on taking actions and you will make a mistake
Dancing in the street
The dance between success and failure is often closer than we think. You will notice that as you start to make progress with your ambitious goals, your rate of making mistakes is likely to increase. The more determination and resilience you apply at the point of desperation, the faster you will overcome the mistake and achieve your dreams.
I have concerns when somebody says “I only study successful people so that I don’t make mistakes”. This is somewhat sad because there is no drive to take a risk and push the boundaries. Conversely, consider what would happen if we studied the mistakes of successful people. Do you suspect that this might increase our learning?
Da Vinci learnt much from the chaos of the kitchen as he went on to create inventions that were the prototypes of many machines used in subsequent years and ranged from parachutes to tanks.
Although a central figure in the development of bebop jazz in the 1940s, the legendary Charlie Parker continues to this day to be one of the most influential improvising soloists in jazz.
Both took risks, both learnt from mistakes and both were highly successful.
Steve Jobs may have been the Apple of your eye, but he wasn’t immune to making mistakes too. He was also a highly driven risk-taker who was always learning from those mistakes. He once pronounced “I want to put a ding in the universe” …..so what do you think?
What big daunting goals are you going to set? Post them below to share your success and wonderful mistakes so that we can all learn and grow together.
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The article was written by John Cassidy-Rice
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