When you live in a society that values perfection almost above all things (like ours), it is difficult to admit mistakes. It’s even harder to realize that mistakes will continue to be made, the product of bad choices, or bad planning, or bad luck. Nobody likes to fail.
And yet we all do. And the sad, sorry news is that, like death and taxes, mistakes are a certainty.
Accepting one’s mess-ups and learning to go with the flow they bring is a major part of why I think DIY projects are some of the most mentally healthy things a person can be involved with. Nothing gives you the stamina to face life’s challenges like spending a good chunk of money on an IKEA desk that you must reassemble three times in order to finally get it together correctly.
The beautiful lines, the color, the symmetry in design and everything else you love about the desk fly out the window the moment you realize — on step 15 — that you did step 2 wrong. And the problem is, steps 8 through 10 involved some tricky balancing act, and now you have to repeat them. By the time you disassemble and reassemble the desk, and realize on step 19 you’ve messed up step 6 this time — you want to throw the desk out the window. No, that’s not far enough to destroy it. Instead you opt to take a bat to the thing and smash it into a thousand-million pieces.
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When the desk is correctly completed some two hours later (thank goodness you glimpsed the receipt before you went piñata on that thing), you’re awash with a sense of pride. Of accomplishment. Well, you will be, just as soon as the bourbon wears off.
Confession: No single project I have ever set out to complete has actually turned out as I’d planned. Not a single, flipping one. And no matter how many times I read the instructions, I still make some error that causes me to stop, undo and redo. Ripped-out stitches, re-cut paper, trips to the craft or hardware store for replacement parts. It happens, pretty much every project.
I began my work life online, spending well over a decade as a Web designer and online producer. You can imagine how joyful it feels to publish a mistake online. You think your misspelling on that Facebook post was bad? I once took down a well-trafficked website with one tiny code error. OK, that was a lie. It wasn’t just once; and it wasn’t just one well-trafficked website. And virtually every Web developer or programmer has a similar story, or better one. Just like teachers do. And accountants. And, well, everyone.
We all make mistakes, and we make them pretty much all the time. The beauty of being a DIYer is that we KNOW we will mess up. We know that any given project is never as easy as it looks, or that the color won’t be as we imagined, or that at least one batch of cookies will come out a little scorched. But we still try, and we still, eventually, succeed.
So embrace your failures. Embrace the bad choices, the bad planning, the bad luck and all the frustration that comes along with them. Because what you get for your efforts will eventually lead you to better knowledge, better experience, and better understanding. Like the saying goes, “the road to success is paved with failure.”
And nothing feels quite so good as a well-earned success.