One of the best things about reviewing new books for this blog is the opportunity to be exposed to titles and authors I would normally never select. Such is the case with The Book of Mistakes—9 Secrets To A Successful Future by Skip Prichard. My first reaction was, “What? Who wants to learn more about making mistakes?” But when I was told the book was a business parable I couldn’t resist because parables are a favorite of mine. After all, just about any message, when told well as a story, has the potential to offer insight and inspiration—even a book about mistakes. Plus, no matter what our age, or how we describe success, each of us can use positive reminders to create the kind of future we hope to live.
Naturally it turns out that the nine “mistakes” presented in this self-help fiction are mostly common-sense life-hacks that we already suspect, if not out-right know. But by revealing them in a story form, they go down like a spoon full of sugar rather than a whack on the head. So rather than just list the nine of them as bullet points, I am going to share the top three that held the most meaning for me. The three biggest mistakes I have been guilty of believing are:
#1 The mistake of staying stuck in your comfort zone. Ever been there? I have, numerous times. And if you’re anything like me you also find it more and more attractive as the years go by to just take things easy. While I’ve always thought of myself as fairly adventurous, when I’m honest I realize that I am making more and more choices to play “safe” rather than take a risk. Know what I mean?
Probably one of the most prevalent ways I do that is by ramping up my planning skills. Now that the internet makes it so easy to plan, and I’m very good at it, I often find myself planning far more than I need to. Most of the time it still works out well because I’m married to someone who requires flexibility and loves spontaneity. But again, when I’m completely truthful I know that my planning is an attempt to control the uncertain and make sure everything fits with my perceived needs well in advance.
Another example of staying in a comfort zone is going to a social event and not talking to anyone new. My first response is to look for people I know already and then go and speak to only them. But when I think about it, who knows the friendship or opportunity I might be missing by not speaking with a stranger?
One of the characters in the book named The Bookseller uses this mistake to teach her young student named David that we must fight the pull of mediocrity. She encourages him to become more comfortable with the uncomfortable and wisely says, “Our thoughts can empower or imprison. They empower when we try something new, and they imprison when we let them convince us to stay comfortable.” This mistake reminds me that if we want to grow and experience something new then we have to be willing to do something new.
#2 The mistake of thinking there is a fixed and limited amount of success available. I’m drawn to this mistake because it is such a reminder that most of us “get to make it up.” Admittedly, we don’t all start out with the same advantages or disadvantages, but where we decide to go with what we do have going for us, is up to us. Yes, sometimes it is very difficult, but as one of the other mistakes implies, allowing excuses to be our default response to our lives never helps either. I prefer to believe that my future is only limited by my lack of imagination and initiative, rather than believing that other people, or the system, are stacked against me. That is a decision each of us makes every day.
Another way this mistake creeps into our thinking is how we compare ourselves to others and judge ourselves harshly. This is something that writers have to guard against on a regular basis. Because I love to read, it’s so easy to start comparing myself with writers I admire. When that happens it’s far too easy to tell ourselves, “I’ll never be that good,” or “They have far more talent than I do.” But while I can never be someone else, my success and the talent I do have is uniquely, and unlimitedly, my own. The same with all of us.
Another character in the book named The Artist shares this mistake with David by explaining, “There is unlimited possibility in the universe. There is no limit to your potential. Someone else’s success does not reduce your own capabilities or potential. Be motivated, not intimidated, by another’s success.” Let’s all stop comparing ourselves to others and remember that we have more influence on our lives than we usually remember.
#3 The mistake of believing you have all the time in the world. This mistake is very relevant to me because last week my life included a visit to the local hospital’s emergency room and an overnight visit. There’s nothing quite like such an experience that reminds us that we won’t live forever—and the value of making the most of each and every day.
The good news is that I’m going to be fine and in some ways the experience turned out to be good news. But if the takeaway is nothing more than a reminder that I don’t have all the time in the world, it will be worth it. Of course, if we are paying attention, something happens nearly every day to remind us that life is precious and that it would be SMART to make the most of each and every moment.
I particularly like the advice in the book that The Doctor character gives David. He says “..on the one hand, live each day as if it’s your last and, on the other, as if it’s your first. Your last keeps you focused on what really matters…your first is important because you also must have a longer view, or you will never accomplish the goals that are hard and take longer.”
As I mentioned in the beginning, all of nine of the mistakes in the book and their accompanying lessons are not really new. But when told in an easy to read parable they remind us of their importance and offer the potential to inspire us to something new. And while the primary market for this type of business book is obviously targeted toward those who are either beginning a new career or looking to reinvent themselves, it is SMART for all of us at any age to remember and apply such wisdom in order to create a happy and successful future.
Okay, your turn. Do you like to read parables? Do you appreciate being reminded of things you know but don’t always practice? Can you relate to any of the mistakes I’ve confessed to? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.