We're humans. Given a chance to screw up, we will.
That's a quote from Brent Scowcroft, former, and outstanding, Director of National Security for presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. In a recent New York Times BooK Review Essay on a new biography of Scowcroft, the reviewer Daniel Kurtz-Phelan begins by saying:
In foreign policy, every success is just the start of the next crisis.
And isn't it that way in life, generally? We plan, work, strive and achieve, just to be confronted by a big problem we didn't see coming. And, along the way, we screw up.
"Mistakes were made." That could be an epitaph for the human adventure. And how do you deal with mistakes or screw ups? Do you descend into the valley of despair, self-recrimination, and toxic guilt? I hope not. Just as much as I hope you don't just continue to dash blithely forth, oblivious to what you've done.
Mistakes will be made. It's the human condition. The real question is whether they'll be continued, or at least interrupted by a proper response. Can we be learners? Will we be resilient? Even Sisyphus got back down to heave the stone again.
Give yourself a break. But don't let that prevent you from learning. We all make mistakes - sometimes whoppers. And we all can learn. There's a way to be a short term pessimist and a long term optimist. That's what I've been for a very long time. Any crazy thing can happen in the short term. But I'm very optimistic about the big picture.
This is actually a nice posture to adopt. Most critiques of optimism are actually objections against the viewpoint that can't tolerate any pain, and deludes itself to see sunshine in everything. I see sunshine, but not as a delusion - and mostly as a disinfectant of our stained mistakes. It's precisely my long term optimism that allows me to be a little pessimistic in the near term, and be prepared for almost any bad thing to happen. I'm ready for it. And I'm prepared to change it into something good.
How about you?