What do you think is the top cause of stress at work?
When Deloitte conducted a survey of 23,000 professionals around the world, a whopping 82% said the same thing:
Realizing they had made a mistake.
And yet, the pace and complexity of work is only going to increase.
So mistakes will be inevitable. But stress doesn’t have to be.
Research shows that when we make a mistake, the brain goes in one of two directions:
1️⃣ It sees the mistake as a threat and avoids the discomfort of thinking about it.
2️⃣ It treats the negative outcome like a problem to solve: “What happened? Why?” Then it pays more attention during the next decision, as if trying to prevent a repeat.
Which approach do you think gets better results? 🤔
So it’s not that successful people make fewer mistakes.
They simply extract more learning from them.
💡 They use mistakes to refine their decision-making criteria. Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater, a $150B hedge fund, calls himself a “professional mistake maker.” Every time he made a decision, he would write down the reasons so he could retrace his thought process when he made a mistake.
He says: “Over time, I began to find those mistakes almost like puzzles that would give me gems if I could solve them. The puzzle was what would I do differently in the future so that it would not be so painful.”
💡They make it safe to screw up. When Kinnek CEO Karthik Sridharan saw his team was optimizing for short-term gains, he realized the company was missing out on valuable learning that could sustain its long-term growth.
He needed to make it safe to take risks. So he introduced a weekly “all hands” meeting where each team had to share their mistakes and the lessons learned.
The underlying message: Making mistakes is part of your job.
💡 They see mistakes as intellectual property. Peatix founder Taku Harada said, “I tell the team it’s good that we made the mistake today and we’ve learned from it, because our competitors are going to run into it a year later [when it will cost much more].”
Most people think of intellectual property as technical features and patents. But extracting the learning from the mistakes you’ve made creates real value that can be turned into valuable IP.
I’m not saying mistakes will ever feel comfortable.
But we’ve evolved to a place where they can be an opportunity for growth and bonding.
Let’s use them that way.
p.s. Great leadership doesn’t just happen. What it takes: figuring out what IS working, identifying blind spots, creating the right systems — and then watching the pieces click into place, almost like magic.
If you’re a tech leader ready to level up, let’s talk. On this complimentary call, we’ll create your future, and lay out the exact strategy and tools you need to get there.
☎️ Book a call here.