You’re gonna make mistakes… Just don’t make these

A former army drill instructor who likes painting gave me this life philosophy:

“We don’t make mistakes, we just make happy accidents.”

-Bob Ross

I turn 25 this year, and I recently started watching a lot of Bob Ross. Every episode, he goes from a blank canvas to a beautiful painted landscape in 30 minutes. It’s incredible. (All his shows are on Netflix if you’ve never seen him.)

If you’re young like me, it’s easy to think that mistakes are to be avoided. Bob Ross will rock your world.

He makes mistakes while painting. On broadcast television. Many times.

Every time, he says, “We don’t make mistakes, just happy accidents.” Then, he turns a stray paint smudge into a mountain, or a cloud, or a tree.

The mistakes make the painting. Without them, it just wouldn’t be the same. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from watching Bob Ross. Your youthful mistakes are there for you to learn. So, most mistakes shouldn’t stress you out.


The Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck wrote a book about mistakes, learning, and growth. It’s called Mindset, and in it she argues that there are two types of people.

One group feels that intelligence and ability are fixed attributes. Either you’re “smart” or you’re not. The same goes for “athletic,” “artistic,” “musical,” etc. You can’t change who you are. This is called the fixed mindset.

The other group has a growth mindset. Every challenge, obstacle, and mistake, for this group is an opportunity to grow. They say things like, “I don’t know how to do this—yet.But if I keep trying I’ll figure it out.

Check out this video for Dweck’s explanation in a talk she gave:

Mindset is hugely important when it comes to mistakes. Those who cultivate a growth mindset are more likely to learn from mistakes, make more mistakes, and develop stronger skills than those who believe their abilities are fixed.

Those with a growth mindset are also more likely to ask for help when they need it, a huge predictor of success in career, relationships, and health.


So, all mistakes definitely aren’t bad. In fact, you should be making a lot of mistakes in your youth if you want to learn. But are there mistakes you should avoid?

Yes. Definitely.

Big mistakes I’ve made (and I see other people my age making) are below. I’ve broken them up by category.

  1. Relationships
    1. Not dating – Sometimes fear or complacency keeps people from going out of their comfort zone to date somebody. This can apply to people who have lots of sex, too. Just because you have sex doesn’t mean you’re opening up to someone else. Adding someone intimate to your life can be incredibly rewarding.
    2. Staying in a friendship/relationship even though it brings you down – Don’t do this. I know it’s hard. You need to end it.
    3. Staying in an abusive relationship/home/etc – This is a sensitive one. There are tons of resources if you’re a victim of abuse. Stop reading this post and go here:The National Domestic Violence Hotline
  2. Health
    1. Not exercising at all – Walking counts as exercising. Sitting all day is just outright dangerous for you, especially when you’re young.
    2. Smoking – I smoke a cigar every once in a while, no problem. Starting a heavy smoking/tobacco habit when you’re young is worth avoiding, though. How to Quit Smoking
  3. Financial
    1. Credit card debt – That hole gets deep really quickly, trust me. Don’t spend beyond your means. Get help here if you need it: Debt-it: Debt Management and Debt Help
    2. Not getting some line of credit to establish a credit history – People don’t realize you need credit history in order to take out loans later in life, like a mortgage. Start young with a card with a low limit and build a credit history.
  4. Career/Business
    1. Not looking for a good job the right way – So many young people give up and settle for bad jobs. It costs them skills, connection, and money over the long run.
    2. Using nights and weekends for Netflix and Instagram instead of creating something interesting. Create More, Consume Less

Other than that, make mistakes. You’re young! You’re supposed to make mistakes. Just learn from them. You’ll be alright.

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