You’ve just been introduced. Your polished PowerPoint presentation is projecting on the screen. You welcome your audience. You are ready to start and press the “next slide” button on your remote.

Nothing happens.

You’re sweating. You don’t know what to do; finally resorting to having an audience member advance your slides manually on a keyboard.

Later you realize you forgot to put the batteries in the remote.

You don’t know how this could have happened. You practiced this presentation over and over. You knew every bit of it, front and back. But here’s the thing. You practiced the presentation, yet, did not practice your mistakes.

Practice Your Mistakes: Know How to Fall

The idea of practicing mistakes is something I do quite often. As a live event DJ, I rely on many pieces of technology to execute flawless performances. It’s rare when not at least one thing goes wrong. It be could be as small as forgetting to put batteries in my microphone, to something big like a hard drive crash (please knock on wood that this never happens to me).

But when things do go wrong, it’s usually an operator error (me, myself and I). But then again, things usually do not go wrong, because I’ve likely practiced the mistake ahead of time.

Recently I was watching a gymnastics competition that was playing on a video screen at my daughter’s tumbling gym. The girls who were competing were definitely high-level gymnasts, but this was not an Olympic level exhibition. And and what was different about them in comparison to the Olympics — where those girls never seem to fall off the beam — at this level falls were common.

These girls were good, but not Simone Biles good. There were missteps and falls off the beam. But they were not gasp-inducing falls, they were, for lack of a better word, graceful falls

It’s as if they anticipated their fall, readied their body and as best they could do, gently fell to the floor below.

Almost like they practiced it and I’ll bet you they did.

The reality is, rarely anything is flawlessly executed.

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Perfect Mistake Practice Makes Perfect

It’s been said that practice makes perfect. Or perfect practice makes perfect. But the reality is, rarely anything is flawlessly executed. We can train, practice, study, go through scenarios over and over inside our head, but there is nothing that can actually simulate for “showtime.” There is nothing that can emulate the nerves, the environmental conditions, equipment deciding not to work and a host of other issues that all tend to rear their heads at the wrong time.

And this isn’t about having a backup plan, which you should also have. Backup plans and encountering mistakes are two different things.

A back-up plan is having another PowerPoint remote, or a wireless keyboard available in the event your primary remote stops working. This mistake, as we spoke earlier, is forgetting to put batteries in the primary remote.

It seems we are always practicing and doing dry runs to make sure everything goes right. But what about when things go wrong? What if we spent as much time considering those moments and practicing what to do when things go wrong?

This is why I’m an advocate for practicing our mistakes, or running through those catastrophic scenarios that make you think, “I’m dead, there’s nothing I can do, show’s over.”

But if you’ve gone through those scenarios before, then it’s not a catastrophe, it’s a slight detour from the original plan. You know exactly what to do to fix the problem because you’ve practiced this before.

The reality is, rarely anything is flawlessly executed. The trick to avoiding disaster is to practice mistakes ahead of time.

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