July 23, 2016

Keep Making Mistakes

One of the reasons why I am so grateful I went to Fuller Seminary is that this school encourages theological and pastoral students the study leadership–a subject of study sorely missing at too many seminaries. Most Fuller alums will be familiar with Dr. Robert Clinton's work which came from studying Christian leaders over decades. But there's a problem with what some people derive from leadership studies. Leadership experts often write about a point in which leaders hit their stride. At some point you know your field well. While you may not be considered an "expert" you are at least highly competent in the area of work you focus on. You increasingly get to do more of what you do well and less of what you don't do well. You know what you're good at and find greater fulfillment. Things aren't as hard as they once were. Things get easier. Let me just say that I think this is nonsense.

If this happens in your development as a leader you haven't "arrived."

You've "plateaued."

Let's set aside that this assumption about leadership is totally skewed by class and ethnicity. Women, people of color, working class folks wouldn't experience this in ways that those Clinton and others would have been studying. Executive leadership has long been skewed towards white males. Even if this weren't the case, the idea that there is a point in your career that it gets easier is a fallacy. It's always hard. It's always challenging. I'm now in my 40's. In a couple of years I will be able to say that I've been doing much of what I do for 20 years. Half way into my "career." Guess what: I don't experience a success rate any higher than I did in my 30's or 20's. I still make way more mistakes than not.

If you're not making mistakes, you've plateaued. You're not learning. You're not growing.

If you are making mistakes do not be discouraged. Don't buy into the lie that it's supposed to get easier. It's not. Yes, you get better at letting the mistakes roll off your shoulder–you don't take it as personal. Yes, you get faster at learning from your errors. But, please don't stop. Don't get safe. Keep making mistakes. It's the only way to keep things moving forward, to keep improving yourself, to making the world a better place.