The Magic of Mistakes

We’ve learned from watching a lot of movies that magic can go a number of ways. From the ‘Deep Magic’ of ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe‘, to the tidying of children’s bedrooms in ‘Mary Poppins‘, the good vs evil of the Harry Potter series and temporarily turning inquisitive parents into pigs in, one of my sons’ favourites, ‘Spirited Away‘.

Mistakes can be similar. The outcome and effect of a mistake can vary considerably, depending on the circumstances, the number of people involved, what’s at stake and, perhaps most of all, the response of the culprit.

Driver or Destroyer?

What mistakes have you made in life? Have you made any at all? What effect did it have on you? I certainly have made some……..lots of them – with varying consequences.

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein

Perhaps one of the greatest differences between those who win in life and those who don’t, is how they respond to their mistakes. The immediate consequences of our mistakes are almost always beyond our control; it’s our response that makes or breaks us – drives or destroys us.

In certain circumstances, the consequences of a mistake can be catastrophic. A typo in an email is a mistake, but the consequences are unlikely to be too great – unless the recipient is a detail-driven key decision-maker. However, in my own line of work, a crane operator can make a ‘simple’ mistake of pulling the lever too sharply, or not checking that the operating system is set correctly for the current crane configuration – resulting in potentially fatal injuries and huge financial implications. In each case, the person responsible (i.e. ‘response-able’ – able to respond) has to choose how their mistake will affect them.

A Case Study

Recently, my sons, my wife and I met up with my brother and his family for a weekend at Alton Towers. Having visited there many many times over the past thirty years, it was difficult to not compare and contrast.

If you went to Alton Towers as a child, you may recall how magical it felt as soon as you walked through those gates onto Towers Street. You may even be old enough to remember those HUGE ice creams that cost less than a quid back in the late 80s/early 90s. The staff added to the magic, with their enthusiasm, costumes, stunts and smiles. There has always been a bit of a walk between the world-class rides of The Towers, but every step seemed to be filled with excitement and anticipation; maybe they still are for many people.

Then…………The Smiler incident happened.

This was Alton Towers’ mistake. The one that was equivalent to sending an email of last week’s, ahem, Ibiza pics to the MD of a huge client rather than to your best mate. The one that was equivalent to miscalculating the weight of a load, and now you’re looking at four cranes laid on top of a mangled roof structure.

Since then, visitor numbers at Alton Towers have dropped dramatically; particularly in the months following the incident in 2015. At the moment, in my view, the magic is not showing up at The Towers. Many of the staff seem as though they are looking forward to home-time, much of the decor is pretty tired, and the rides are stopping due to ‘technical difficulties’ fairly frequently.

Cause or Effect?

So, are these problems the EFFECT of the reduced revenue due to falling visitor numbers; or, are they the CAUSE of reduced visitor numbers? I think that it’s a bit of both. It is essentially what Merlin Entertainments choose to do that will have the greatest impact on the future. They are balancing at the centre of a see-saw, with the magic at one end and gloom at the other. The direction that the see-saw tips is their choice.

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! – Rocky Balboa

There’s no doubt that the owners, management and staff of Alton Towers will have been through some pain and financial difficulty since the incident in 2015. The suffering of the victims has been widely reported, and it’s terrible what happened to them, but we do often forget that those who made the mistakes are human too. As I’ve said many times to people in the industry – forget jail or a fine, the worst punishment of being responsible for serious or fatal injuries to someone else is what will go on in your head.

However, one must move on from their mistakes. They cannot be allowed to determine your future. Alton Towers appear to have become absorbed by the problem, rather than focusing on the solutions. When you get caught up by your mistake, it’s not only you that’s affected – everyone around you is too. Look at how many people will be disappointed because they haven’t visited The Towers since the incident, and how many will have had a poorer experience because of the current ‘feel’ of the place.

Step Up and Move On

There are two key traits of those who use mistakes as a driver rather than a destroyer:

  1. They take complete responsibility for their part of the mistake. No ifs, no buts – ‘I cocked up!’
  2. They use the mistake as a valuable learning tool to improve themselves and the way they do things in the future.

I never lose. I either win or learn. – Nelson Mandela

If Merlin Entertainments took this on board a little more, I believe that they would tip the see-saw in the direction of success, and rediscovering the magic, rather than slipping into further decline.

No matter how tight the budget is, for anyone, you can always wear a smile, you can always take responsibility, and you can always look at how YOU are going to make things better. Slipping into a scarcity mentality, rather than an abundance mentality, is never going to bring positive results. Sometimes people need a bit of external help to bring perspective; particularly when in a depressive state. Someone to remind you of all the good things that you do and have – someone to help you relight your fire and rediscover the magic.

Perhaps that may be the case with Alton Towers. They have great rides (The Smiler is actually VERY good, as is Oblivion and others) and a fantastic park. The potential to get the place really alive again is definitely there; but it will take the right mindset to do it.

Society Loves a Mistake

Mistakes sell newspapers. Mistakes increase viewer numbers. Mistakes spark conversations in the work canteen or on the street corner. Look around you – revelment in mistakes is all around you. You don’t even need to look or listen. Once you become aware of it, you have to work hard to actually avoid the celebration of mistakes. Negativity is very much at large. Positivity has to be a deliberate choice.

Some people will always be the first bearer of news of a mistake of another. But those same people will often expect or seek leniency when they make mistakes of their own. “It wasn’t my fault.” “They were giving me a hard time, so I couldn’t pay attention to what I was doing.” Blah, blah, blah. Limit your time with these people – until the day that they wake up and take responsibility.

We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. – Steve Maraboli

So, what are you going to do when you make the next mistake? Are you going to bow to the fear of making another and wallow in the consequences? Or, are you going to take responsibility, learn from it and use it to increase your strength as you walk towards the land of the great?

Remember – it’s YOUR choice!

The Smiler (Optimised)
The Smiler – keep smiling and move on.

My First Post…………So There IS More to Life Then!

What brought me to the current moment – the Me of today? And, indeed, what has brought you here? Why have I started a blog? What does the future hold?

I suppose I just kind of thought that they’d come round to the idea. I mean, there’s no way that they could NOT like it once we were out there. Then………BOOM, like an earthquake came the “we can’t do it.”

BC or not BC?

It was July 2014. After several years of becoming more frustrated and fed up with the rat race, my dream was on the horizon. Lots of time, energy and effort had gone into making it happen. I’d already knocked back one promising job and taken another, we’d been out for a visit and I’d passed the crane operator assessments, school places were sorted for the kids, the permit was virtually in the post and we’d even sold the house. All that was left to do was to book the flight and get on the plane to start our new life in Vancouver.

My wife and children not wanting or being able to go through with the move hit me hard. At first, I was pretty bitter about it. I’d already decided that I was leaving employment, regardless of whether Canada happened or not. So, within two weeks of the decision being made not to go, I started my own business – SWL Training. As my levels of motivation in work had been dropping over the previous months, and I was so set on the move to Vancouver, starting my own business felt more like a consolation prize than an exciting adventure. I was very fortunate to have had plenty of contacts to assist me in getting sufficient associate work to pay my bills; although, I did put considerable time and effort into getting the business up & running (as well as not being able to take any money out of it for a couple of months).

Blinkers Off

On reflection, and with a bit more of an objective view, was it really only MY dream to move to Vancouver, and I was just trying to sufficiently convince myself that my wife and kids were buying into it? There’s no question that there was an element of selfishness in my desire to make the move happen; which I did partially admit at the time. Perhaps I didn’t admit it to myself as much as to see that it probably wasn’t fair to pursue it as far as I did. Don’t get me wrong – I genuinely felt that it would be the best thing for us as a family to make the move out there. Better standard of living, more opportunities for the kids as they grew up, less hours that I’d have to work, the whole of Canada and USA to explore on holidays, were all on offer; and I still believe that we would’ve loved it had we gone out.

A number of house moves later (due to renting rather than owning), lots of upheaval, trials and challenges in the business, and some deep self-examination, I am now a much stronger person. I am now fully accountable.

Until a person can deeply and honestly say “I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday”, that person cannot say “I choose otherwise”. – Stephen R Covey (paraphrasing Eleanor Roosevelt)

Get Real

Although my intentions have always been good on the whole, and I’ve always been one to hold my hand up when I’ve cocked up, something just wasn’t right. I would always crack on with work at a healthy rate, but I would often groan, judge and/or criticise in the process. ‘Why the hell can’t people just do things the right way?’

Some people would say that perfectionism is a good thing – that it sets good standards. As a near-reformed perfectionist, I would not say that perfectionism is a good thing. It’s absolutely s**t! The problem with it is, that neither you or anyone else around you can ever do anything well enough; it’s always measured against the ‘perfect’ outcome. Perfection does not mix with pragmatism.

Have I lowered my standards? Nope, I don’t believe so. I’ve simply matured, become more patient and realised that it may take some time to get things to an outstanding level, and that not everyone has the desire to get there. Striving for high standards, and where that can take you in life, is something that I’ll talk about and share with you in a future blog. So, I’ll leave that point there for now.

Insight and Inspiration

During Tony Robbins‘ Unleash the Power Within (UPW) seminar in London in April this year, one of the many discoveries I made was: I had put up with all the bad stuff going on in life and accepted it as normal, but I was unable to recognise the good. This was part of the perfectionism thing; but it meant that I was unable to really see or accept the good in myself – therefore, unable to see the good in others. This was a very simple, but hugely significant discovery for me.

For the past eighteen months, I have been on a journey of seeking a better version of myself. It’s now very apparent that this is a never-ending journey, but a journey that has already started to reap huge rewards. Not financially yet, but it has helped me grow as a person massively. When you’re 6’7″, there’s a lot of space to fill – it feels so much better when it’s not empty.

I’m very aware that this post has been predominantly about me; but it’s important that I lay my cards on the table so that you can see that there is considerable genuineness and qualification for many of the future posts, in which I will seek to be of some help or inspiration to you.

There has been a lot of reading, listening, learning, talking, thinking, meditating and enjoying over the past number of months, which will continue indefinitely. A few catalysts of my self-transformation journey, and starting points that I would recommend to anyone, are:

  • Mindfulness meditation – have a look at Headspace and start taking control of your own mind.
  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People‘ by Stephen R Covey – a magnificent book or audio book if you often find yourself being held back by the inner cautious critic.
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People‘ by Dale Carnegie – are you one of those with the right intentions on the inside, but often abrasive on the outside?

I hope that you come back to visit my blog again, and I’d really appreciate your comments. You can subscribe to receive email updates when I post too if you like.

Until next time – stay safe, stay you and don’t let anybody dampen the joy that you have to share with many. All I have to say is ‘I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.’

Yes, Vancouver Really is this Beautiful