Resolving to Make Glorious, Amazing Mistakes

I knew the calendar year had changed when I walked into the grocery store this weekend. The entryway that just the week before had held chocolates and poinsettias was now stacked high with vitamins and dietary supplements.

This week, social media feeds have been filled with New Year’s Resolutions. The optimist in me takes heart in our collective yearning to improve, to start again, and to better ourselves. But the pessimist remembers how quickly we abandon goals for the comfort of old habits and the self-defeating proposition embedded in the question, “Why bother trying?”

As these two voices argued in my head, I stumbled across a gem of a quote from acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, and changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself.

Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

Let me step back and explain how I found this quote. I use an app called Flipboard that turns my Twitter feed into a personal digital magazine. The middle school faculty and I are working to create “digital feedback loops” this year by “following” writers, thinkers, blogs, and magazines that enhance our understanding of the world and our profession.

Frankly, I follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter because he writes episodes for Doctor Who and Sherlock, and I’ve found that his ideas frequently challenge my thinking. That’s what I want in my feedback loop: ideas that challenge me to consider new points of view.

While “resolving to make mistakes” might seem counterintuitive, it resonated. I like designing and tinkering. Not surprisingly, I make lots of mistakes.  As a kid, I had dreams of becoming a fearless superhero. I still want to change the world – don’t we all? — but with each passing year I am more grateful for the missteps that have helped shape my path. For me, Gaiman’s call to “make mistakes” is really about taking important risks and encountering the future with courage.

Gaiman’s ideas reignited my inner optimist. Here’s what I wrote to our amazing middle school faculty in my first message of 2015:

“In order for each of us to do what we need to do on a daily basis — grow, connect, learn and continually inspire children to be their best selves in a rapidly changing world – we need space and the freedom to experiment and sometimes get it wrong so that we can get it right. My goal is to create an environment where this kind of good stuff can happen – where when you get it wrong, the effort and the initiative to try is always supported. Let’s resolve to take some creative risks NOW so that we can impact the future. So, here’s to getting it wrong a lot in the New Year!”

May your year, as well, be filled with “glorious, amazing mistakes” as we strive to make the future a little brighter for everyone.

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