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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

In Praise of Making More Mistakes

by Jen Zobel Bieber, Personal Coach

The trick to doing most anything well is doing it first badly.

My favorite illustration of this comes from the pages of a wonderful (short) book called Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

If the strategy for doing most anything well is DOING the thing in the first place, then the hurdle lies in moving from contemplation into action.  That’s where most of us find ourselves frozen, thinking about something, but challenged to take action on it.

The best method over the hurdle is practice.  Far too often, we don’t give ourselves permission to practice — to dive in headfirst, to make a mess of things, to make mistakes…in essence, to create a bunch of ugly pots.

But what if we did?  What if, when frozen to take action, we focused on doing rather than on doing well?  What if, instead of setting our sites on the quality of our efforts, instead we focused on their quantity?

Consider it…What would change for you if you gave yourself more permission to practice?


Jen Zobel Bieber is a certified personal coach who has built a reputation helping individuals to achieve professional success and personal fulfillment.  She specializes in working with adults with ADHD, providing practical tools to help her clients capitalize on their strengths, manage their challenges, and exceed their own expectations.   Learn more at www.hallowellcenter.org

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