The Magic of Mistakes

We’ve learned from watching a lot of movies that magic can go a number of ways. From the ‘Deep Magic’ of ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe‘, to the tidying of children’s bedrooms in ‘Mary Poppins‘, the good vs evil of the Harry Potter series and temporarily turning inquisitive parents into pigs in, one of my sons’ favourites, ‘Spirited Away‘.

Mistakes can be similar. The outcome and effect of a mistake can vary considerably, depending on the circumstances, the number of people involved, what’s at stake and, perhaps most of all, the response of the culprit.

Driver or Destroyer?

What mistakes have you made in life? Have you made any at all? What effect did it have on you? I certainly have made some……..lots of them – with varying consequences.

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein

Perhaps one of the greatest differences between those who win in life and those who don’t, is how they respond to their mistakes. The immediate consequences of our mistakes are almost always beyond our control; it’s our response that makes or breaks us – drives or destroys us.

In certain circumstances, the consequences of a mistake can be catastrophic. A typo in an email is a mistake, but the consequences are unlikely to be too great – unless the recipient is a detail-driven key decision-maker. However, in my own line of work, a crane operator can make a ‘simple’ mistake of pulling the lever too sharply, or not checking that the operating system is set correctly for the current crane configuration – resulting in potentially fatal injuries and huge financial implications. In each case, the person responsible (i.e. ‘response-able’ – able to respond) has to choose how their mistake will affect them.

A Case Study

Recently, my sons, my wife and I met up with my brother and his family for a weekend at Alton Towers. Having visited there many many times over the past thirty years, it was difficult to not compare and contrast.

If you went to Alton Towers as a child, you may recall how magical it felt as soon as you walked through those gates onto Towers Street. You may even be old enough to remember those HUGE ice creams that cost less than a quid back in the late 80s/early 90s. The staff added to the magic, with their enthusiasm, costumes, stunts and smiles. There has always been a bit of a walk between the world-class rides of The Towers, but every step seemed to be filled with excitement and anticipation; maybe they still are for many people.

Then…………The Smiler incident happened.

This was Alton Towers’ mistake. The one that was equivalent to sending an email of last week’s, ahem, Ibiza pics to the MD of a huge client rather than to your best mate. The one that was equivalent to miscalculating the weight of a load, and now you’re looking at four cranes laid on top of a mangled roof structure.

Since then, visitor numbers at Alton Towers have dropped dramatically; particularly in the months following the incident in 2015. At the moment, in my view, the magic is not showing up at The Towers. Many of the staff seem as though they are looking forward to home-time, much of the decor is pretty tired, and the rides are stopping due to ‘technical difficulties’ fairly frequently.

Cause or Effect?

So, are these problems the EFFECT of the reduced revenue due to falling visitor numbers; or, are they the CAUSE of reduced visitor numbers? I think that it’s a bit of both. It is essentially what Merlin Entertainments choose to do that will have the greatest impact on the future. They are balancing at the centre of a see-saw, with the magic at one end and gloom at the other. The direction that the see-saw tips is their choice.

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! – Rocky Balboa

There’s no doubt that the owners, management and staff of Alton Towers will have been through some pain and financial difficulty since the incident in 2015. The suffering of the victims has been widely reported, and it’s terrible what happened to them, but we do often forget that those who made the mistakes are human too. As I’ve said many times to people in the industry – forget jail or a fine, the worst punishment of being responsible for serious or fatal injuries to someone else is what will go on in your head.

However, one must move on from their mistakes. They cannot be allowed to determine your future. Alton Towers appear to have become absorbed by the problem, rather than focusing on the solutions. When you get caught up by your mistake, it’s not only you that’s affected – everyone around you is too. Look at how many people will be disappointed because they haven’t visited The Towers since the incident, and how many will have had a poorer experience because of the current ‘feel’ of the place.

Step Up and Move On

There are two key traits of those who use mistakes as a driver rather than a destroyer:

  1. They take complete responsibility for their part of the mistake. No ifs, no buts – ‘I cocked up!’
  2. They use the mistake as a valuable learning tool to improve themselves and the way they do things in the future.

I never lose. I either win or learn. – Nelson Mandela

If Merlin Entertainments took this on board a little more, I believe that they would tip the see-saw in the direction of success, and rediscovering the magic, rather than slipping into further decline.

No matter how tight the budget is, for anyone, you can always wear a smile, you can always take responsibility, and you can always look at how YOU are going to make things better. Slipping into a scarcity mentality, rather than an abundance mentality, is never going to bring positive results. Sometimes people need a bit of external help to bring perspective; particularly when in a depressive state. Someone to remind you of all the good things that you do and have – someone to help you relight your fire and rediscover the magic.

Perhaps that may be the case with Alton Towers. They have great rides (The Smiler is actually VERY good, as is Oblivion and others) and a fantastic park. The potential to get the place really alive again is definitely there; but it will take the right mindset to do it.

Society Loves a Mistake

Mistakes sell newspapers. Mistakes increase viewer numbers. Mistakes spark conversations in the work canteen or on the street corner. Look around you – revelment in mistakes is all around you. You don’t even need to look or listen. Once you become aware of it, you have to work hard to actually avoid the celebration of mistakes. Negativity is very much at large. Positivity has to be a deliberate choice.

Some people will always be the first bearer of news of a mistake of another. But those same people will often expect or seek leniency when they make mistakes of their own. “It wasn’t my fault.” “They were giving me a hard time, so I couldn’t pay attention to what I was doing.” Blah, blah, blah. Limit your time with these people – until the day that they wake up and take responsibility.

We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. – Steve Maraboli

So, what are you going to do when you make the next mistake? Are you going to bow to the fear of making another and wallow in the consequences? Or, are you going to take responsibility, learn from it and use it to increase your strength as you walk towards the land of the great?

Remember – it’s YOUR choice!

The Smiler (Optimised)
The Smiler – keep smiling and move on.

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