Why Screw Ups Make The Best Memories

Flagler Beach

A quiet beach vacation is nice, but fades from memory. It’s the mishaps we retain longer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There isn’t a lot I remember about my wedding 13 years ago. After a year of planning, and spending the equivalent of a down payment for a house, the evening went by in a blur. The one image that’s remained vivid is my friend giving an accidental, meandering Four Weddings and a Funeral-style toast that reduced the audience to catcalls (mortifying me in front of my 85-year old grandmother). The memory has given many a laugh, including me, over the years — even if it seemed like disaster at the time.

I also can’t easily call to mind much about those heady days building my first company. I’m unable to recall any pivotal new business meetings, except the one over dinner where I went to the bathroom, tripped, and fell flat on my face in front of the entire bar filled with happy hour patrons. Which I then had to pass again on my way back to my table and my new client, who after seeing all the attention had been alerted to the whole thing.

The fact is that we remember far more the times where things don’t go as planned, then we do when everything works perfectly.

Research shows clearly that the human brain retains more from the bad memories than the good. As explained in this New York Times article, mistakes imprint longer and in more detail as perhaps a cautionary tale of what to avoid next time.

I’m okay with that.

I certainly am not hoping for disastrous consequences to deal with. But for most of us, these small annoyances of planes missed, languages flubbed, wardrobe snafus, and life’s metaphorical (or literal) stumbles happen regardless of our planning. If you have kids like I do, it’s a guarantee.

I am a whole lot happier when I embrace them and deal with them, rather than trying to control them away or worry them into extinction. After all, these “oh crap” times are the vignettes that become our stories and our shared experiences.

It’s summertime, and like many of you, I’ve got a few vacations planned. I’m continually reminding myself as I try to lock down the plans to not just enjoy what goes right, but to find the joy in what doesn’t.

Sure, I’d love to permanently embed the high points. But I know I can’t. The memories of the good times will fade, and we’ll be left with our stories of the crazy mishaps. And these will get stronger as they’re retold with more amusement and whimsy as life goes on and we layer in new knowledge.

With any luck, this summer will end with a few new stories to add to the family lore.

Are your best memories of the mishaps? Share here or @kristihedges.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. Find her at kristihedges.com and @kristihedges.

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About kristihedges
Executive coach, leadership development consultant, Forbes.com blogger, Entrepreneur.com contributor, author of Power of Presence (AMACOM).

2 Responses to Why Screw Ups Make The Best Memories

  1. Mike says:

    I’ve plenty of good memories of your wedding, but of course that toast was quite memorable.

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