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Using Mistakes to Help Others

I’ve made a handful of mistakes in my life that still haunt me today. I guess we all have regrets and wish we could turn back the clock, return to a previous era, and make better choices with the knowledge we have today.

For instance, I would have never eaten that sixth Slim Jim in the spring of 1968 and experienced my first gold medal in projectile vomiting. And, if I hadn’t skipped church to go to the local pool hall in October of 1971, I might have avoided getting hit by a car on the way home. And who knew that my daughter’s stomach flu during Christmas of 1994 was so contagious that it would infect family members in three states?

Now that I think about it, perhaps I’ve made more mistakes than I remembered.

But one of the biggest mistakes I ever made was smoking cigarettes for four years in my early twenties. I picked up the habit out of pure boredom when I worked as the overnight desk clerk for a hotel where the bar gave away small packs of cigarettes. It was if they were saying, “Got a drinking problem? Well, we’ve got an even better habit for you – and it’s free!”

So, I tried the cigarettes as a way to battle the boredom and the drowsiness that comes with working through the wee hours of the night. Before I knew it, I was hooked. I was a pack-and-a-half smoker for four years but luckily, I quit shortly after starting my job as a hospice social worker. And yes, the job had a big impact on my quitting – particularly after seeing people with end-stage lung disease.

Many people were not as lucky as I am. They continued to smoke and have suffered the consequences. But the Center for Disease Control is trying to change that. Recently, several news agencies reported on an in-your-face campaign created by the CDC to shock smokers into seeing the devastating effects of smoking. It is alarming and it is also quite effective.

USA Today - CDC Photo

CDC Photo from
“USA Today”
Click to See Full Article

What I like most about this campaign is that the people featured in the ads are former smokers who have been seriously debilitated by smoking. From stomas to amputations, these former smokers are brutally honest about the impact of their habit.

And that’s how we should all benefit from our mistakes – to help ourselves and to help others.

Some of the most powerful motivational speakers I’ve ever seen are those who at some point in their lives, found themselves in a devastating situation and then discovered the strength to overcome their adversity. The result is that there situation changed and they became different people. They used their mistakes, problems or adversity for good.

I am grateful for the people in the CDC campaign who are willing to show their weaknesses as a way to keep others from making the same mistakes. And I would love to think that we could all use our mistakes as opportunities to make changes in our own lives and perhaps even in the lives of others.

In my opinion, that’s what it means to Do Mistakes Well.

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