Blowing things up taught me to afford people the gift of making mistakes
Updated: Oct 1
"Experience isn't really the best teacher but it sure does serve as the best excuse for not trying to do the same silly thing again" - Frank Hughes
All my life, I have been interested in wiring and electronics. For me, this interest started from an age where I could barely hold a screwdriver. My mother tells a story of a time when I was only 3 years old. She walked into the laundry where we had a refrigerator running. Excuse the pun, but what she saw, shocked her. I had a screwdriver in my hand. I had removed a guard that covered access to the motor and electrical wiring. I had also removed some of the wires. All while the refrigerator was running!
The refrigerator story is only the start of my interest in electronics. I remember a great uncle who I liked to visit. He would give me his old radios and other electronics along with some tools. I would sit for hours as I dismantled and sorted each of the components, while asking him about each one as I went. It was all a learning experience.
My father had a stereo that we use to use at our church as a Public Address system (PA) as the church could not afford one of its own. I was 14 years old. I also had a stereo of my own. I was intrigued by the idea of amplification and was keen to experiment. My parents were away for the weekend and I decided it was time to hook up multiple speakers. In fact, I wired my stereo to my father’s stereo and switched them on. I would like to confirm this was not a good idea! My stereo appeared to be the more robust of the two, dads started to have smoke billow out of the back of it. I had some explaining to do.
Over the years, I have blown up many electronic devices, PC’s and facsimile machines to name a couple. But through all of this, I have learnt many things that I have been able to use to provide value to people. To think that I now run the production technology at my local church. I have a rule for myself, “don’t touch anything that I cannot afford to replace”.
"Experience is not the best teacher; evaluated experience is" - John C Maxwell
As I reflect on this, it reminds me that people need to have the space to make mistakes so that they can learn. As leaders we can be so quick to instruct people on how to do things rather than letting them learn for themselves. Today, I know that it is important that I do not give all the answers, or even try to persuade someone to attempt something in a particular way. It is important that people can work things out for themselves.
As people learn, they also grow. One of the great things that I get to do as a leader is to help people to grow. It is my experience that, while people may make mistakes, they end up being far better team members. The lessons they learn help them to share knowledge and to also make better decisions.