Fear of mistakes: growing & learning after messing up

4 mins read


We can admit that with great responsibility comes great fear, unfortunately. This fear is regularly guided by a desire to avoid getting it wrong and making bad decisions. However, I am sure you can remember at least one mistake you’ve made, that made you better than before. Such as being more attentive, watching your step, measuring your words during an argument and so on. Precisely for this reason, we believe it is essential that mistakes be accepted, discussed, and guided toward a better way of working in the long term. More so, throughout time, it became one of our main principles at Grapefruit and part of our identity: Failure is not wrong if you learn from mistakes.

There is no denying that some of the best ideas are born from mistakes. Think about it: penicillin, chocolate cookies, corn flakes, and even post-it notes, they were all discovered by a simple mistake! We’ve also seen this in our company over the years, with an amount of cases where bad has worked for good. Not only for this reason, but we always encourage any mistakes in our work to be discussed and clarified so that we can get the most out of them. These discussions are mostly held under the form of a retrospective at the end of each project. At Grapefruit, you always look for the lesson behind everything you do


Why are mistakes seen as bad?

Nowadays, with hustle culture on the rise, perfectionism is highly promoted, not only in terms of company image, but also in the daily lives of individuals. It is essential that everything goes as planned, that everything runs on time, that the results are as expected and that you keep up with everyone you see on social media. 

As a result, when we make mistakes or something goes wrong, we tend to feel guilty or even doubt our own abilities. This is the most common mistake, because we undervalue ourselves and fail to see the good in situations. In this combination, our mistakes end up overshadowing our existence, giving us a distorted view of our skills.

How do we turn mistakes into opportunities?

Once in a while, we should stop blaming our mistakes and take them for granted. If we do this, we may eventually realize at least one of the following important things.

Mistakes can sharpen our skills: The fear and anger that our mistakes cause frequently result in a greater awareness of future actions. Mainly, instead of being afraid to try again after making a mistake, we could be more careful, check, and think 10 times before doing anything. We can be cautious and do our best not to repeat the same error. These things will greatly assist us in sharpening the skills we already have.

Mistakes can spark new ideas: Mistakes not only sharpen some of our skills, but they also fall into the category of unexpected creative ideas. When we make a mistake or do something incorrectly, we frequently generate a new idea. It’s similar to cooking: if you accidentally add an extra ingredient, you might just have created a new dish! Isn’t it awesome? 

Mistakes can build funny memories: We’re not talking about food this time, but we’re sure mistakes can become the crème de la crème when it comes to fun. Some mistakes are so funny that they bring us closer to others and allow us to share humorous experiences in any social environment. In this way, we can move past our initial feelings of frustration or shame, realizing that some mistakes are simply delicious when it comes to fun facts.

How do we see mistakes?

We’ve learned that mistakes are human and inevitable, especially when working as a team. We don’t deny that we’ve been scared and led into general bad moods as a result of our mistakes. But, over time, we’ve realized that most errors make us more aware, stronger, and confident in our future actions.

For these reasons, we have become more open to discussing, appreciating, and accepting mistakes made in work teams. We have never been inclined to blame colleagues who make mistakes, preferring to approach situations with humor or in a constructive way. After all, we want our colleagues to be relaxed and not work with the pressure and fear of making mistakes ingrained in their minds. We believe that by doing so, we will avoid creating an unhealthy work environment, which will have long-term consequences for our teams and departments.

Our mistakes over the years

How we ended up getting out of breath after sending an email

Every one of our Grapefruit colleagues has gotten an email wrong at least once. The story of the unspoken attachment is timeless and will serve as a lesson to each of us. Similarly, the panic felt when pressing the send button and realizing that the attachment has gone stale in the documents is the best lesson there can be. As a result, we can conclude that everyone who double-checks an attachment before sending it has made at least one mistake in their lives. This demonstrates that we have managed to improve, to be more cautious, and to avoid the uncontrollable rapid heartbeats that could be caused by not attaching documents.

How we were creative as a result of our carelessness

A few reasons why significant ideas discussed within the team may not be taken into consideration include inattention, overwork, or multitasking. We were able to settle on a final plan after conducting numerous organized brainstorming sessions and discussing dozens of ideas and methods. However, it turned out that a completely different idea than the final one was executed when it was time for someone to do so. What would someone do? Panic, of course. It’s been days of working in a different direction. But guess what? The concept that resulted from this mistake was considerably better, to the prior one. It has expanded the potential for amazing creative campaigns. That’s why we would like to express our gratitude to our coworkers for accidentally coming up with some truly original and imaginative ideas.

How we kept our employees by getting the recruitment wrong

There is one story that remained part of our company’s history. If this had been a Friends episode, it would have been called: The one with the funny-tasting coffee. We strongly feel that our hiring process is effective and tailored to the needs of our candidates. Thus, when one of our development colleagues had his first interview at our office, we remember it with tears in our eyes. Happiness-related tears, of course. Why? Because one time, when we had an interview with one of our Front-End Developers, another colleague volunteered to make and bring him a coffee while he got to know our HR Manager.

What a nice gesture, right? Well, even if our colleague was well-intentioned, he however confused the sugar with salt, and although that was probably the worst coffee ever, our candidate drank it silently throughout the end. He only said that the coffee was a little salty but delicious at the end when asked if it was good. Since then, this error has made us laugh uncontrollably, and we are still happy to have our colleague—who was once a candidate—with us. 

Now that we’ve divulged everything, what else can we tell you? Allow the mistakes to come naturally; don’t blame yourself or someone else; just find the fun part or the learning opportunity that has been given to you. Be ready to make mistakes, and when you do, stay confident. We’re all human. Opportunities, creativity, and fun are three words to keep in mind. Making mistakes and accepting them can improve your life and work!

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