One of the biggest roadblocks to getting better at something is being too worried about making mistakes. Or being too worried about looking foolish by trying to do something new and failing miserably, possibly embarrassing one’s self in the process.

Get over it.

You’re never going to be perfect, but to become skilled at something, you have to get moving, you have to take some risks, and you have to do things differently than you’ve done them previously. And when you get moving, when you take risks, and when you do new things, you will make mistakes. You will sometimes fail. You will get bumped and bruised along the way. When you are growing and improving, the mistakes and failures along the way are not blemishes on some sort of permanent record, they are the “scars of success.” I dare you to show me an example of a person who is exceptionally accomplished at anything who doesn’t carry with them some “scars of success.” They simply don’t exist. Making mistakes and suffering some bumps and bruises along the way is part of the process of growing, getting better, and becoming successful.

I also like the axiom that states that if you fall while moving you will still be making progress. I share this axiom because I think it counters a malady that appears to have become more prominent in our society. That malady is persons sharing criticism while ‘sitting on the sidelines’. For some reason persons sharing such sideline feedback seem to think they are actually doing something. I find it much easier to accept and hold in high regard the “hustle mistakes” from those that are in the arena actually doing something than it is to find any value coming from those that aren’t involved. Teddy Roosevelt captured this sentiment very well:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I spent a fair amount of my life coaching sports. I spent 13 years as a high school varsity boys basketball coach, and 14 years as a high school varsity girls soccer coach. I also coached different levels of various school sports, club sports, lots of camps, and quite a few of my own children’s youth sports teams. I share this because one of the things I learned from this experience is that if the members on my team were going to perform to their maximum potential, they needed to have real trust and support from their coach, the kind of trust and support that understands ‘hustle mistakes’ are a necessary ingredient for attaining excellence in performance. It was my goal in this setting to create the kind of environment where the expectation was that if you were hustling, giving your absolute best effort, and trying to do things the correct way, mistakes were unavoidable. We could live with the mistakes. It was also understood that such mistakes typically diminish over time.

I firmly believe our educators need the same type of loving and trusting support from their supervisors and administrators, the kind that understands that it is complex and challenging work to serve each and every student in such a way that each student will reach her/his fullest potential. The kind of support that encourages educators to innovate, apply the best learning research in their classrooms, and mess up once and while in the process. It really is the only way to excellence in student learning.

Mike Redmond is the superintendent of Shakopee Public Schools and author of Redmond’s Rules. Each blog post provides deeper meaning and more clarity to each of the 15 rules that make up Redmond’s Rules. To read recent posts, visit


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