“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde
I would like to blame my brother Brian. Maybe, just maybe, if his mullet wasn’t so totally sweet, I might have avoided it. But alas, inspired by the awesomeness that was my brother’s mullet, and powerless to fight the trend of my era, I proceeded to grow my own. At the time it seemed like the right thing to do. Looking back, it does seem pretty stupid. Ultimately, no matter how much you are influenced by peers or circumstance, your choices are yours.
The mullet is the split personality of haircuts – business up front, party in the back – evidence that I was struggling to find my identity. However, as mullets go, I thought mine was grand. For the record, there were no curling irons involved, just good fortune to have the right amount of natural wave.
This weekend, as I travel to my 20 year high school reunion, I think back on that decision and many of the other choices I made at an early age – and since. Man, I’ve done some stupid things. I have hurt people’s feelings, spoken before thinking, embarrassed myself, and failed to live up to people’s expectations – as we all have. With a foundation of blunders and mistakes, I suppose I should feel bad about it, but I don’t. The things that I did wrong, the really stupid things – they drive me forward and lead me to make better choices along the way.
So what can be learned from my personal stupidity?
Admit that you could be wrong. Only after a history of “wrong” have I come to be a better listener, open-minded to the concept that I don’t have it all figured out. This compels me to actively seek the right course of action.
Ask for advice and TAKE it. I would like to take a moment to personally thank my good friend Mike Foote who cared enough about my well-being to firmly impress upon me that it was time to lose the mullet. “Really?” I replied in confusion, “is it not sweet?” Mike had the guts to tell me the unpopular truth – I had the sense to believe him. It is not easy to tell someone when they are wrong, so give credit to those people, and really try to understand their perspective.
Consider your alternatives before making a decision. There are many ways to start a project or solve a problem. I’m a big fan of talking to people you trust, doing a little research, and writing “pro’s-and-con’s” lists.
Be prepared to make mistakes again. “So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else.” Lee Iacocca
Forgive yourself. Ultimately, you won’t know if a decision is bad or good until you evaluate later. Don’t let the fear of being stupid prevent you from taking action, and don’t beat yourself up if it eventually looks like a mistake. I would much rather deal with the regret of doing something stupid than the regret of never taking risks.
The mullet has become a symbol of my questionable judgment – but also represents my ability to recover, choose the right course, and be smarter moving forward. As I now gaze upon my high school haircut and think about the other stupid choices of my past, I am optimistic that each mistake somehow shaped my present and my future. The mullet is dead – the lesson lives on.
Big shout out to Reed High School class of ’91. It was fun growing with all of you. We shaped each other. Looking forward to reminiscing this weekend!