What I learned from painting my house toothpaste green

change confidence fear

After 17 years of living in our home, we finally decided to repaint this year. We’ve done significant remodels to the inside of our home, but the outside was always “just fine.”

So this year we decided it was time for an exterior facelift. I went through the (literally) hundreds of paint samples, including several dozen versions of “white” (seriously, who knew that there could be so many options for a single color.) I was tempted to stay with a neutral, safe color for the outside of our house as I’m a bit risk averse, but my neighbor nudged me to consider actually choosing a color (instead of some variation of cream or brown).

Ultimately, I settled on a choice between two shades of green - a lighter one and a darker one. My gut told me to go with the darker shade that I loved from the first time I saw it, but my logical brain listened to the reasonable voices of others saying, “That will be too dramatic” and “It will be too dark in your shady backyard.”

I went with the lighter shade, and when I walked outside last week to see the painters’ progress, I almost lost my lunch.

It wasn’t the luscious green I had envisioned, but a much lighter shade with an unexpected blue undertone. With my “lucky red door” that I wanted to keep, the “toothpaste mint” green paint was nothing like what I had imagined, and I didn’t like it – at all. But what on earth was I supposed to do in the middle of a huge paint job?

I had a choice to make: (1) admit I chose the wrong color and ask the painters to repaint the darker color immediately before while everything was still taped and protected with plastic, or (2) move forward with the minty color rather than admit my mistake.

It didn’t take me long to decide to admit I chose the wrong shade and have it done right in the color I wanted. (I’ve included some before, during, and after pictures below!)

But this got me thinking about our legal profession and how much I see attorneys struggle to admit a mistake. And there was a time in my life when I wasn’t so comfortable acknowledging my own missteps (it’s still not easy, just less nauseating).

Our world and our profession celebrate success and perfection, so admitting our mistakes can feel terrifying. But the ability to fess up to our errors is not a sign of weakness, but a testament to our strength and resilience. 

 There are several benefits to being able to admit a mistake:

  1. One significant benefit of admitting mistakes is the impact it has on our likability. Research conducted by Dale Carnegie Training found that leaders' willingness to "admit when they are wrong" was the number-one tested behavior in terms of its positive impact on employees' job satisfaction and intent to stay. When we own up to our mistakes, it humanizes us, making us more relatable and approachable.

  2. Effective leadership is not about being infallible; it's about inspiring and guiding others toward success. Admitting mistakes is an essential trait of effective leadership. According to a study published in the journal "Leadership Quarterly," leaders who are willing to admit their mistakes are perceived as more effective and trustworthy.

  3. The ability to admit mistakes also has a profound impact on our mental health. Suppressing mistakes or living in denial can lead to constant stress and anxiety. On the other hand, admitting mistakes can be cathartic and liberating. Bottling up mistakes can lead to a negative spiral of self-doubt and insecurity. When we admit our mistakes, we confront them head-on and can take constructive steps to rectify them. This empowers us to grow and evolve, ultimately boosting our self-esteem and overall mental well-being.

  4.  Admitting mistakes enhances problem-solving skills. It allows us to analyze what went wrong, identify patterns, and develop strategies to avoid similar errors in the future. This proactive approach to problem-solving is a valuable skill in both personal and professional life.

  5.  Admitting mistakes also fosters healthier relationships. Whether it's in your personal life or at work, acknowledging errors and making amends demonstrates a commitment to fairness and respect. This can lead to stronger, more trusting bonds with others.

So even though it can be incredibly uncomfortable in the moment (though I promise, with practice it gets easier!), admitting mistakes is a powerful tool that can lead to several personal and professional benefits. It makes us more likable by showcasing our authenticity and vulnerability, enhances our leadership abilities by fostering trust and growth, and contributes to better mental health by reducing stress and promoting self-acceptance.

Life is tricky enough, and we all face countless opportunities each day to be right - or wrong. Perfection is an elusive goal, and mistakes are inevitable. Instead of fearing them, we should embrace them as opportunities for growth and self-improvement. 

So, the next time you make a mistake, don't shy away from it—embrace it, learn from it, and watch how it transforms your life for the better.