How do you handle mistakes?

How about really big mistakes that, in a moment, seem to erase months or years of preparation and training?

Take a look at this video of runner and first-year university student Matsuki Terada, in the lead at the Tokyo-Hakone relay marathon, when, with  only 200 meters to go, he takes wrong turn:

Ouch. I’m guessing that inspirational quotations like James Joyce’s “A man’s errors are his portals of discovery” or Albert Einstein’s “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” don’t do much for Mr. Terada right now. (And, unlike the tagline for the source of the video, I don’t consider it to be “funny stuff.”)

What do we do when we make these kinds of mistakes? Let’s face it. We all do it, maybe not in such public venues or on camera, but we all take occasional wrong turns that seem to undo all that we are working or hoping for.

We could try flushing them away:

A favorite PCA mistake ritual is “The Flush.” We learned it from PCA trainer Mike Legarza, formerly the men’s basketball coach at Cañada College in Redwood City, Calif. When a player makes a mistake, he makes the motion of flushing a toilet, which involves making a fist with one hand, putting his fist in the air and bending his elbow to bring his fist down. With this flushing motion, the mistake is flushed away and he can now focus on moving forward. ~ Bounce Back from Mistakes with the Flush

However, the older I get, the less I want to do away entirely with my mistakes, and the less I even think of them as mistakes. They are like pages in a scrap-book that are part of who I am, but not all of who I am. Okay, yes, there are those really big mistakes that I prefer not to look at as often. Maybe putting them in a recycling bin is a more useful metaphor than flushing them away.

In any case, I’m sure the other runners agree with Napoleon Bonaparte’s advice on the subject:

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”