Mistakes We Make and The Lessons We Learn

Mistakes We Make and The Lessons We Learn

Winston Churchill said: “ All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes”. 

To some extent, each and everyone one of us have been conditioned to believe that making a mistake is a bad thing. While the degree of the mistake is determined by consequence, it is still a common fear amongst most men and women of a certain age, especially those in leadership roles. 

If you dig a bit deeper into the human psyche, you will realise that mistakes are ultimately linked to another human fear – failure. Failure is a crippling condition that can really shape the future of any human being. We can either crumble and admit defeat, living in regression and in the past or see through the failure and learn from it, turning it into an opportunity to be better. 

As we cross over into a more mature frame of mind, we learn to accept our failures and see them as opportunities to learn and grow. A basic first step is reviewing what went wrong and then understanding ways to learn around them. This could be skills, knowledge, resources and tools that will help you prevent making the same mistakes again. Review the progress until your failure turns into a success.  

I’ve learnt to be vulnerable through my mistakes and would like to share my top 5 failures with you as well as the lessons I have learnt through them.

Not having tolerance for different approaches/personalities as a young leader:

As a young leader I was extremely driven and took everything I did extremely seriously. I therefore believed that everybody around me (staff and team mates) also had to have the same intensity and approach to team sessions and training sessions. As I got older I realised that some people are more laid back and that their approach will still get you to the same end result. The lesson is that different approaches often give you a different view or perspective that can be crucial when the going gets tough.

Sacrificing my health and morals to achieve a personal goal:

In 2003 I was appointed Captain of the Springboks. I would be leading a squad of like minded warriors to the 2003 World Cup in Australia. Before the tournament we went to a camp called Kamp Staaldraad. We were told in no uncertain terms that if we did not complete the camp we would not be going to the World Cup. After missing the 1999 World Cup I realised that I would not have an opportunity to make the 2007 World Cup 4 years later. 

With this personal goal in mind I allowed some things to happen to some of my teammates that I would never usually allow. The lesson is that as a leader you must never want something so badly that you are prepared to sacrifice your health, morals or ethics to try and achieve that goal.

Taking the “easier” option:

After the 2003 World Cup I was offered a contract at Biarritz in France. I was in the process of getting the final offer on the table when I was also approached to go to England. In the end I decided to go to England as I thought it would be easier for us as a family. I was nervous of the language barrier in France and I thought it would be easier for myself and Justine to adapt in England. 

We have amazing memories of our time in Northampton and the friendships we forged will remain very close to our hearts. The rugby didn’t turn out the way all of us hoped but I still wonder how things would have turned out in the south of France. The lesson is that the perceived easier option might turn out to be more difficult!

Too big too soon!

When I started my business I wanted to be a big player in the Billboard Advertising game. When I ventured into the “informal” market or “township market” I went big. I put in 1000 scrolling light boxes in 1000 taverns. At the same time I put up 75 billboard structures in the same areas. Some of these structures are still around and they are doing well but in hindsight it was too much to do in one go. 

The lesson I learnt is that sometimes it is better to grow slowly and organically, rather than putting yourself under massive strain. Sidenote! I will forever be grateful for every person who supported me when things were not going well.


For many years I held grudges as I felt that I had been let down by people. A dear friend then told me that not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and hoping that they die. It really did make a lot of sense to me and I forgave the people involved. It was like a mountain off my shoulders. The lesson is that in life things happen and that people make mistakes. If someone has done something to you or to your family then you must forgive them. Forgiveness will set you free and more opportunities will come your way.

If you are keen to share your thoughts, please follow this journey on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you would like more information about Debunking Motivation, please take a look at my speaker sheet or contact me on corne@cornekrige.com 

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