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"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."

That quote from Samuel Beckett was probably never meant to reference one's spiritual life, but it sure applies.  Paul Shoemaker has written a book called Brilliant Mistakes in which he encourages (!) companies to use mistakes in a thoughtful way. 

From Forbes.com, here is a snippet of what the book suggests for corporations:

 Brilliant Mistakes starts from the premise that 99% of successes come from failures. Therefore, he argues that it’s puzzling for failure to have such a negative label. And he believes that since mistakes are so valuable, people should learn from them. This observation leads Schoemaker to three implications for managers:
  • Mistakes should be planned. Companies go to great lengths to avoid mistakes. Instead, Schoemaker argues that organizations should not let them occur by chance but should actively plan to make mistakes. His common sense kicks in here and he suggests that companies should manage their mistake-making in a disciplined manner. Specifically, that means using criteria to rank mistakes — such as low cost, quick learning, and extending the bounds of what managers think is possible. This is the sort of thing that is a matter of course for start-ups but very difficult for large organizations to pull off.
  • Mistakes must be mined. Schoemaker argues that even if companies do not take a systematic approach to making more mistakes, they should learn from the ones that they unintentionally make. As he put it, “you’ve already paid the tuition so why not get the learning.” To do that, Schoemaker argues that organizations should take a forensic approach to mining the learning by understanding at a detailed level why the mistake occurred and figuring out how the company should change its processes.
  • Mistake-making must be promoted. As anyone who works in an organization knows, people will follow the leader. Unless the CEO is encouraging people to make mistakes and learn from them, following Schoemaker’s prescriptions will be a career-ending decision. However, if the CEO changes an organization’s incentive systems to give bonuses and career advancement to people who make mistakes that provide meaningful learning, then Schoemaker’s prescriptions could indeed come to life.
Now, let's look at this from the stand-point of spirituality.  Most of us are trying to avoid mistakes - or sin.  We want to be good.  We are striving to please God....but we fail.  I'm not saying we should plan to sin (yeah, that would be stupid), but that we should be prepared for when we do.  Hit your knees and pray for forgiveness.  Recognize it RIGHT AWAY.  When you are uncharitable in speech - notice it.  When you have that sneaky little (albeit private) thought that isn't very nice, notice that.

Learn to notice patterns of sin in your life.  Where is it that you are most tempted?  When is it you are most likely to lose your temper or be unkind?  With whom do you have the most trouble remaining calm and pleasant?  Learn from that.

That last point, I believe, is most valuable to those of us who are parents, or who are in leadership over others.  When those "beneath" you see you striving to recognize your sinful patterns and correct them, it will make an impression.  Having a parent who asks for forgiveness for a mistake or behavior is a powerful examples to a child.  How encouraging to know that your parent or boss is striving to be a better parent or boss!

I am certainly not encouraging anyone to "sin better".  What I am saying is that we can stay stuck in sin, or we can learn and move closer to God.  Our mistakes can help us make our souls more brilliant...if we keep trying.

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Crossing Guard

I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

Your little man had on
black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
and
the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.