Professionals Should Make Mistakes

We usually think of professionals as being people who don’t make mistakes. Amateurs make mistakes, because they treat the work as a hobby, rather than as a profession. But ironically, professionals probably make more mistakes than amateurs do, and that’s how it should be, though different mistakes.

This week, I did my first podcast interview. That is, someone interviewed me for her podcast. Anyone who thinks it’s easy to do an interview needs to take a humility pill and then go get a dose of reality. I think I gave her some good material, but I also said some stupid things and missed some things I wish I would have said. And my worst flub was near the end. She gave me the classic opening for my elevator speech, and I missed it.

But that’s okay. It’s the first podcast interview I’ve done. I knew this, and I knew I was going to do stupid things, because I’m learning how to do something I’d never done before, how to interview.

As professionals, we all should make mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t stretching yourself. As professionals, we make different mistakes than we did before. An amateur makes fewer mistakes, because he keeps doing only what he’s used to, and the mistakes he does make are the same mistakes he’s made a hundred times before. Professionals are always trying new things, so they’re always making newbie errors. But they also know how to reduce the risks posed by the mistakes they’ll make. Professionals test first, then they release. And they identify errors and adopt practices that counteract these errors.

So here’s how I’m handling the podcast interview. Firstly, she is a friendly interviewer. Most interviewers are friendly, as they want material that’s going to make them and their guests look good. Still, that was important to me, since I knew I would be making newbie mistakes, and a friendly interview reduced the risk due to these mistakes. Secondly, I asked her for feedback. I asked her to let me know what the best thing I did was, and what was the worst. This will give me a practice to keep and an area to work on. And then I plan on doing more interviews.

It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, it’s required. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not growing. So don’t beat yourself up for the mistakes you make, but do be aware of them and work to reduce them. Then go on to a new set of mistakes.


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“The man who never made a mistake never made anything,” – Mrs Abbott, primary school teacher, c.1972.

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