Mistakes Manifesto

Window Oops As I continue work on my tiny house, The Lucky Penny, I think a lot about the mistakes I'm making and what I can learn from them.

When I taught the Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow this summer, my co-instructor Lizabeth Moniz encouraged us to share mistakes and solutions with each other in our evening and morning construction reviews so that we could all benefit from the lessons learned. Ever since, I've been thinking a lot about mistakes.

Over the past sixteen years I've assisted with the construction of 23 houses, including 12 tiny houses on wheels. In the process I've learned an enormous amount about building. I've also learned a great deal about myself.

And one of the things I've learned about myself is that I wish I were already a better designer and builder. I wish I didn't make so many mistakes. I want to be better at this already, thank you very much. But mastery takes time. And a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them. (My host family in Italy could vouch for this philosophy. I said all sorts of preposterous things in my efforts to communicate in Italian. But I got better at it in leaps and bounds because I was willing to be wrong - over and over again!)

I worked with some builders once who refused to talk about the mistakes they made. They didn't want anyone to believe they ever made mistakes. And I can understand that feeling. It's about pride. And it's about reputation. But wouldn't it be nice if addressing our mistakes and lessons learned was better for our reputation than trying to hide our imperfections?

I'd rather all of us could fess up and say "Oops! Look at that. I messed that up big time!"

Because the great thing is that a mistake that's confessed and addressed has a fix along with it. Occasionally the fixes are just redos. And it's obnoxious to tear out a hard day's work to redo it. But often the fixes are innovations. The solution we come up with after we've made a blunder is often better than the original idea. (Plan F: Take 2, for instance, was better than Plan A!)

Maybe it's working as a woman in the male-predominate construction industry that makes me both hesitant to admit my mistakes and also too quick to downplay my expertise. On the other hand, perhaps it's precisely that same gender conditioning that compels me to share these challenges for the greater good. I know several other female tiny house builders and bloggers - like Kate from NajHaus and Laura from Laura's Blog who have been brave enough to share their struggles and successes.

So when I wrap up construction of The Lucky Penny this fall, I plan to share ALL The Mistakes, because maybe you can learn from mine. I figure if I can save you some time you can make plenty of your own mistakes. Just be sure to tell me about them so I can learn from your mistakes, too.

Hurry up! Make some mistakes. Than confess and address them. Let's learn from each other!