The “It Ain’t Messed Up” Mindset

Ahhhh… Mistakes, everyone makes them but not everyone learns from those baffling blunders.


I have a love-hate relationship with mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some idealist who sees the beauty of weaving a self-error into a beautiful mosaic. By love, I mean I recognize mistakes often contain valuable hidden lessons. I understand to get to the growth, you gotta work through the “oops.”


Narrowly focusing on a mistake itself is the biggest mistake you can make.


Learning to move forward after a mistake is a difficult task but a lesson I was taught when I worked as a carpenter apprentice. The contractor who employed me specialized in historic restorations and renovations. Much of the work was ornate and intricate such as, plaster crown molding, arched doorways made from exotic wood, marble floors, vaulted ceilings, and exquisite woodwork.



As an apprentice, I made a shit-ton of mistakes. I cut trim short, messed up miter joints, dropped plaster ceiling medallions and, my most proud moment, walked on a hardwood floor just after it was polyurethaned. Even though the foreman told me, “Everyone makes mistakes,” I felt like I did everything wrong.


One day on the job site was particularly memorable. It was the moment I learned an important life lesson. I was installing mahogany door trim and I accidentally took out a chunk of the wood trim. I was so angry, and the cursing floodgates opened wide, “[Bleep], this [bleeping] trim. I [bleeping] hate this shit. I [bleeped] it up again. What the[bleep]!” (That is the short version.)


When my f*ck tantrum died down, the foreman approached me and asked, “What’s wrong?” Pissed off, I said, “I SCREWED up again.” The foreman responded by giving me the most valuable advice I ever received, “It ain’t messed up unless it can’t be fixed, and everything can be fixed.” He calmly proceeded to show me how to fix it and reassured me that I would be a great carpenter.


That profound little philosophy still pops up in my mind when I make mistakes, “It ain’t messed up unless it can’t be fixed, and everything can be fixed.” To be truthful, I still become a little frustrated and a tad mad when I drop my cell phone down the stairs, forget my wallet after driving several miles away from home, or back into my mother-in-law’s parked car. I may even say a “bleep” or two, but I bounce back quicker when I remind myself of this philosophy.


The saying is a significant lesson for all of us and can be applied to anything. If you make a mistake, something breaks, or things don’t turn out according to plan, remind yourself, “It ain’t messed up unless it can’t be fixed and everything can be fixed, redone, replaced, attempted again, started a different way, or figured out.”