An unexpected chat about Tipp-Ex led one comms professional to consider the merits of making mistakes. 

by Daniel Cattanach

The chat on our school-run WhatsApp group turned to Tipp-Ex this week, as one of the other parents mentioned how their son really wanted a bottle of the stuff for his birthday. 

We all started to wonder why he’d placed such an ordinary item at the top of his birthday list. Then we recalled, one-by-one, all the imaginative uses we’d had for the correctional fluid when we were kids. 

Tales were shared about using Tipp-Ex to draw designs on DM (Doctor Martens) boots, paint finger nails bright white before going over them with highlighter pens, and even filling in gaps when paint was pulled off the bedroom wall by Smash Hits posters (that one may have been me).

We then talked about how some of our schools had banned us from using Tipp-Ex as we were encouraged to embrace our mistakes rather than brush over them.

I remember how I used to try to "pretty-up" the errors in my hand-written English and history essays. Unfortunately, I would end up carving the correct spellings into volcano-like craters – built up by layers upon layers of correction fluid. It wasn’t a pretty sight. 

It got me thinking about how we can all learn a lesson or two by embracing our mistakes and not just glossing over them. I don’t mean we should get hung up on the negatives and beat ourselves up with guilt and anxiety. But it could pay dividends if we pull out key learning points to help us move forward and avoid making similar mistakes again. 

Learning from failure

The entrepreneur James Dyson famously celebrated his 5,126 failures which finally led him to a successful prototype for his bagless hoover (oops) – I mean vacuum cleaner. Just like Dyson, we too should find the positives in failing as each time it teaches us something new we can use to progress and perfect what we’re doing.

The Huffpost and Thrive founder Arianna Huffington also favours this approach:


In previous roles, I’ve asked job interviewees what their biggest mistake was and what they learned from it. Not only does this help to acknowledge that we’re only human (however perfect we might try to appear), it also recognises how we have the power to turn a negative into a positive with the right mental attitude. 

Try thinking about a mistake you’ve made yourself recently. It doesn’t have to be a biggie – perhaps it was something small. It may seem insignificant but you might be pleasantly surprised at what you’ve learned. We evaluate how successful our comms campaigns are and adapt them accordingly – surely it makes sense to do the same with our own performance. 

I’ll give you an example of when I accidentally used the wrong weblink to a story in a piece of comms. Not only did it teach me to double-check and triple-check in future, I also learned how to redirect a link to the correct webpage. A valuable piece of knowledge just in case I ever needed it again. 

Three top tips to avoid the Tipp-Ex 

I have some simple suggestions which I hope will help you make good with mistakes:

  1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – over-thinking and feeling anxious that something bad will happen could hold you back from achieving or gaining valuable experience through trial and error.

  2. Own your mistakes and show how you’re learning from them – by owning up and taking control to learn from what went wrong you can actually build trust and gain confidence in your abilities for the future.

  3. Share your learnings – as with any lessons in life, there will be others around you who may also benefit from your wealth of experience; including when it’s earned by mistake.

Just remember, we all make mistakes. So if you have any anecdotes to help lighten the load – or any advice to impart about how best to overcome the fear of failure – then please share it with others; don’t bottle it up. 

Sorry, that last pun was a big mistake – now where’s that bottle of Tipp-Ex? 

Daniel Cattanach is a senior communications officer working in regional government. You can say hello to him on LinkedIn

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image via Wikimedia Commons

Original source – comms2point0

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