The secret of “oops!”

Here is a story from Jack Novick that goes with the posting on perfectionism from May 15, 2011.

My nephew was turning three. We had just had a happy time together building, drawing and playing ball. I noticed, however, that our happy time was punctuated with his getting upset and momentarily wanting to end the game whenever he made a mistake.

I told him that I thought he was now old enough to learn the grownup secret of “Oops!” He became curious. I said that big kids and grownups make just as many mistakes as little kids, but they know the secret of “Oops!” First you have to learn to say “Oops” in a fun way, just about what happened, not as an angry or upset or embarrassed word.

So we hopped around the room, bumping into each other, falling, missing our kicks, laughing and saying “Oops!” I told him that the secret is to say “Oops” and then to fix the mistake in the easiest way.

I sat down to draw and asked him to find my mistakes. I drew a face with three eyes, and he said “Mistake!” I said “Oops” and turned the third eye into a nose. We built a tall tower of single blocks, it fell, and we both said “Oops”. I then showed him how to build a tower with a broad base, followed by a look at photographs of pyramids and stories about the Egyptians.

“All this,” I said, “came from knowing the secret of ‘Oops!’ When their buildings fell down the first time, they figured out what to do to fix the problem and built something that has lasted thousands of years!”

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One Response to The secret of “oops!”

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