Cook Looks: We all make mistakes – it’s ok

TJ Editor Jo Cook wearing a headset

Getting things wrong is how we get better, says Jo Cook.

“I don’t think you should pay me,” said the subject matter expert that I partnered with on a recent project for a client. What do you do when someone says that to you?

Do you think ‘great, I’ve saved some money’? Perhaps ‘will they do even more for free’? Of course not. They explained further, saying that they hoped their work was at a sufficient level for my standards and the needs of my client, which of course it was.

What do you do? They say that they’ve learned a lot on the project and wish they’d done certain things better. Don’t we all. We are all constantly learning.

I co-delivered a session the other day with someone new to live online learning, supported their setup, coached them on the detail of what feels like multi-tasking… and I forgot to tell them something which we discovered half-way through the session.

I apologised to them for not remembering to tell them how to do something in the software, they apologised to me for not having learned it themselves.

We can be out of our comfort zone, make mistakes, learn and still be happy with a successful result that added value to others.

It was a good lesson to both of us about thoroughness and assumptions, and for our audience too. Whilst professionalism is always key, especially as we get further out of the initial Covid panic (what some are calling ‘coronacrisis’) and more into that hated phrase of ‘the new normal’, a little bit of humanity goes a long way.

Learning by mistakes is one of the most basic things in our life. We all know it when we see young children taking their first steps, tasting things and screwing up their faces, copying habits of other people with hilarious, or embarrassing, results. We model the behaviour and actions we see of other people, whether subconsciously or with intention, and most people strive to improve day after day.

So why should working on a new project, with a new client and new software be any different? It’s different because of the mindset we have, the psychology with which we approach it and the fundamental needs of ourselves as people. We can be out of our comfort zone, make mistakes, learn and still be happy with a successful result that added value to others.

Or we can be worried about perfectionism, about how others perceive every detail of what we do and miss the bigger picture. We can approach with some deep needs to avoid the praise and success we deserve and wish to focus on the pattern or behaviour we have that we weren’t good enough.

You know what? You are good enough. Every single one of us, deep inside, is good enough. And if we recognise that, give ourselves permission to be successful, to praise our efforts and achievements in a way that is authentic, perhaps we can gain the self confidence we need to keep on expanding our comfort zone not only of our skills but also of what we know about how wonderful our true selves are.

And of course I paid them. Because they were worth every single penny.

About the author

Jo Cook co-hosts the TJ monthly podcast and is a webinar and virtual classroom specialist. Find out more at


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