Everybody makes mistakes. However, we see 24/7 footage of only our life, which creates an information asymmetry: we know 100% of our mistakes and much less of other people, giving rise to feelings of “I am constantly making mistakes, I am not worthy” on the one hand, and infallibility of others on the other. Other people trying to hide, deny, or excuse away their mistakes exacerbates the problem.
Feeling especially “prone to mistakes” is not a good place to be, regardless of whether it is true. It creates a downward spiral, a self-fulfilling prophecy of incompetence, which, once you believe in it, is easy to find supporting evidence for.
The truth is: you are not special, at least not in this regard. Everybody messes up. However, it is difficult to convince your brain of it, dealing with this information asymmetry and all the built-in negativity biases. Here other peoples’ mistakes come to the rescue.
Make a mental note each time you see that somebody made a mistake: misprint in an ad, a poorly edited movie or podcast, incorrect order, copying a wrong person on an email, a business messes up its response to a PR problem, just about anything. You need to understand, to feel it in your bones that everyone makes mistakes.
You do not need to know who exactly did it, in most cases you will not. On the contrary, mistakes of the people you know personally, may be more difficult to process.
Noticing other’s mistakes achieves three objectives:
First, fights information asymmetry. You are not uniquely broken, you are just more aware of your own mistakes.
Second, shows that mistakes are not the end of the world. As Winston Churchill once said:
Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.
Conversely, it is OK to admit and own your mistakes. It makes you better and stronger, contrary common stigma against it.
Finally, occasionally you can learn from other peoples’ mistakes. It is a process in itself and does not come naturally, but you cannot learn from mistakes you do not know about.
A word of caution: always remember why you are taking notice of others’ mistakes. It is not to feel superior, gleeful, or the like. It is to feel average but in a good way.