You're going to screw up

About a year ago I was just starting a new job. I was fresh out of school, thousands of miles from all my friends and family, and feeling a bit anxious and under-qualified. After a couple days, a guy I was working gave me a bit of advice, which went something like this:

“You’re going to screw up.”

(I didn’t like the direction this was going, but it got better)

“…Everybody screws up. It’s just a fact of the industry, and a fact of life. I once accidentally sent a test email to 250,000 people. He (pointing across the room) accidentally deleted the entire live database for a website. It happens to everybody, and it’s going to happen to you. So don’t worry about it too much.”

To be clear, he wasn’t promoting recklessness or unnecessary risk-taking. He still encouraged me to be careful and double-check my work. But we cannot live our lives, tempering our efforts for fear that we’re going to screw up. We cannot treat our mini-catastrophe’s as pits of doom to avoid at all costs.

Why? Because the cost is way too high. I can’t think of anything worth doing that isn’t rife with uncertainty and potential pitfalls. Developing the ability to navigate those pitfalls, take the hit every now and then, and bounce back quickly is more valuable than drifting through the safe zone, paralyzed with fear.