The Most Important Thing You Could Ever Learn From Me And My Blog

Today I want to share a bit from my heart — a message from me to you — in a rare pictureless post. I’ll blame it on the fact that I’ve been watching a lot of Mel Robbins and Marie Forleo on YouTube, and I’m feeling very motivated and inspired, and very desirous of inspiring others today. My own message is one I’ve shared a thousand times before in various ways (even as recently as February), and it’s one that I’ll share again and again in the future, because quite frankly, I think it’s the most important thing you could ever learn from me and my blog.

A couple of weeks ago, someone commented on an Instagram post of mine and said, “How can you be so good at everything?” I get similar comments fairly regularly, and my initial reaction to comments like that is to fall into some sort of false humility, but I stop myself. To me, false humility is almost as disgusting as someone who constantly brags.

Now obviously, I’m not good at everything. I haven’t tried everything. Not yet, at least. 😀 And there are things that I wouldn’t be good at. I know I wouldn’t be good at them, and they don’t interest me, so I avoid them. Rock climbing, for example. Writing a novel. Running a marathon. Bleh, yuck, and no thanks.

But I knew what she meant. I do have a very diverse set of skills — sewing, building, upholstering, painting, designing, creating. And I can say with confidence that I’m good at those things. I’ve torn three rooms down to the floor joists, ceiling joists and studs, and completely rebuilt them (with some help from others where needed along the way, like my brother, my brother-in-law, and my plumber). I’ve tackled some pretty extensive projects, like sanding and refinishing my hardwood floors, tearing out and rebuilding exterior walls, etc. I’ve put doorways in load-bearing walls. I sew professional workroom-quality draperies and window treatments. I’ve built furniture and cabinets from scratch. I’ve upholstered more furniture pieces than I can remember. I’ve made my own light fixtures from scratch.

But do you know how I got good at those things?

I resolved myself to the fact that there will be mistakes along the way…many, many mistakes.

Here’s what I’ve learned about most people, and it’s something that I struggled with for a great deal of my life.

Most people are afraid of making mistakes.

  • You might be a perfectionist who can’t stand the idea of something turning out less than perfect. (That was my problem. Perfectionism will kill your risk-taking desire.)
  • It might be because somewhere long the way, someone told you that you were a failure, and those words ring in your ears every time you make a mistake, so at all costs, you avoid anything that might possibly result in a mistake.
  • Perhaps you’ve allowed a defeatist attitude to take root in your mind, telling yourself that you could never be good at such-and-such, and so what’s the point in trying?
  • Maybe you deal with insecurity, and you’re afraid that if you make a mistake, people will point and laugh.

Whatever the reason, most people are afraid of mistakes.

But here’s a simple truth, and there’s no way to get around it…

You will never know the joy of victory until you conquer your fear of failure.

I can upholster furniture, and I’m pretty darn good at it. But that skill was hard-earned, with loads of failures along the way. In my lifetime, I’ve spent countless hours ripping out staples because the fabric puckered, or undoing my work because I thought I could cut corners and leave off the welt cord only to realize that it looks horrible without welt cord, or tufting and retufting because I couldn’t get the fabric to fold flat in the tufts.

I can build with power tools and wood (or MDF), but that skill was hard-earned as well. You have no idea how many times I’ve tried to build something only to end up throwing away wood because I couldn’t get my cuts right. Or how many projects I’ve worked on that, at some point, resulted in flaming hot tears of frustration streaming down my face (and probably some not-so-ladylike words streaming forth from my mouth 😀 ) because no matter what I tried, I just couldn’t get it to work.

There have been tears, temper tantrums, tools hurled across my front yard or porch in sheer frustration and anger because I just couldn’t get it right. (It’s amazing that my circular saw still works after being chucked across my concrete porch in a fit of frustration. True story. 😀 )

I can sew workroom-quality draperies, but that came with hours and hours of practice. I can’t even begin to calculate how many hours I’ve sat in a chair, sewing machine in front of me, stitch ripper in hand, and tears welling up in my eyes, as I ripped out everything I just did because I used the wrong stitch, or I put the bobbin in incorrectly and it created a jumbled mess on the side I couldn’t see as I was sewing. I’ve ripped out countless pleats because they just didn’t work out right.

You get the point.

I’m good at these things and have many successes now not despite my many failures, but because of my many failures. Mistake-making is one of the best learning tools you have. Learning how not to do something is every bit as valuable as learning how to do something.

So to answer that woman’s question, “How can you be so good at everything?” That’s easy. Because I have made a ton of mistakes, and I’m not afraid of them. Yes, they frustrate me. Yes, they can be a huge setback, a waste of money, and a waste of time. But they don’t scare me, and they certainly don’t stop me from trying.

Do you want to be really good at something? Then you have to be okay with failure. You have to embrace mistakes. There’s no getting around it. That doesn’t mean that failure and mistakes are definitely going to happen. You may try and find that you’re a total natural at whatever it is you’re doing. But a fear of failure and of making mistakes will paralyze you and keep you from ever trying.

And that, my friends, is the most important lesson I could ever hope to impart to you on this blog. I’ve written about it several times before now, and I’ll write about it again in the future. I may even mention it once a week for the next year until it starts to sink in, because it is at the heart of everything I do, everything I try, everything I accomplish, and all of the projects I share with you. Put aside your fear of failure, learn to embrace those mistakes, and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

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  1. GREAT post – thank you for, again, talking about the process. It’s so easy to just see the destination, either on someone else’s journey or our own goals and wishes. Finally accomplishing something either perfectly or on our own terms of what is good enough and will work for us is a mighty reward.

  2. I wish I had learned this lesson earlier in life. I hope I taught this lesson to my daughter & that she won’t be scared of failure, as I was. Thank you for the encouragement!

  3. May I add one more thought? This is also why it it so important to allow our kids to fail. It’s the only way they will learn genuinely self esteem and real success.

    1. Kate, you are so right. We must let our kids fails so they learn to conquer life’s problems without falling apart. And learning from mistakes is a way to never forget the lesson.

      1. Such a nice post, telling people…you have to try…(and fail) to succeed. Very great reply: We have to let our children fail, to become confident. Our kids need confidence and NOT video games, and they need to go out and earn a little money cutting grass, babysitting, etc. Just to learn, its difficult to earn money, but it can be done. Love your blog, thanks for the beautiful (and practical and affordable) solutions.

  4. Thank you for everything you write and teach – especially this! I’ve been thinking a lot of you over the last few days when I tackled a project that was waiting to be done for more than a year now: I’ve built a potting bench from scratch using bits of wood that we had around, and even though it’s not perfect, I love it and am quite proud about it. Without your blog I might have tackled it anyhow but I wouldn’t have thought about oh so many details along the way which helped a lot, so thanks once again! And you are right, I needed to overcome the fear of mistakes and simply get started – it is a very basic but very important message that you are teaching there – and I welcome it time and again on your blog as I tend to forget it 🙂

  5. You don’t know until you try. You try and “fail” but, it’s not a failure. You learned that; you won’t try THAT again or, you figure out how to do it better next time or, it didn’t “turn out” as you wanted BUT it looks pretty good anyway.

  6. I totally get what your saying! People harp on me for “being so good at “everything””. Whatever. I like trying everything, and unless you do the same, you will never be good at anything.

  7. ❤❤❤❤ I needed this little boost…there are new responsibilities at work on the horizon and I have been second guessing my abilities. Favorite pictureless post ever

  8. I love this post. I’m planning to DIY some living room built ins and I’m nervous about the many mistakes I’m going to make. Your post inspires me to allow for the mistakes and the extra materials I’ll need to buy and time I will need to build them when I make those mistakes. I’m going to give myself permission for lots of learning as I hone my skills doing something I love to do.

    Thank you!

  9. How ironic: I was drafting a future post this morning (D-I-why Do I Do This To Myself?) and you pretty much just answered the question.

    I am not an inspire-er (that is clearly you) but I am an inspiree. And a grateful one to be sure! You’re the first blogger I ever followed, and it’s been so much fun to share in your creativity!

  10. Great encouragement and wise counsel, Kristi. Someone recently asked me how I learned to do the diy and other things I do. My response was, “I chose to learn.” I’ve not diyed to the magnitude you have (yet), but still continue learning new skills to push myself into more involved projects.

  11. I will keep these thoughts with me Kristi. Even at 63 I need a few reminders! And without you I would not currently be sewing curtains with blackout lining. Its gone good so far. Now I just need to figure the pleats. Time to look at your post again!

  12. You are the first blogger I’ve ever followed. And when I see your latest post in my inbox, I skip everything else and read yours first because I know I’m in for a wonderful treat that will inspire, educate and motivate me. Your ability to express your trials and trevails in such an honest, articulate and always entertaining way is truly a gift. I wish you had your TV own show because you have the personality that could literally light up a room LOL! Thanks for being YOU!

  13. A few years ago I remodeled my kitchen at age 54 – not completely down to the studs, but I replaced all the cabinets and a good size section of drywall. My husband lives/works in another state, so it was up to me alone if I wanted it done. I saved us enough money that I could splurge and get soapstone countertops. I’m not sharing this to brag on me but to let you know that your blog is why I had the courage to even attempt it. I saw all the wonderful things you did and started googling videos on how to do things. I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl (thank you Mom!!!) and I am fairly fearless with fabric (unintentional alliteration, lol). Due to your inspiration and seeing your successes as well as your do-overs (thank you for sharing all of that!) I realized that lots of DIY stuff is like sewing: for many projects, the worst that will happen is to be out a little bit of materials and some time. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us: what works, what doesn’t, and that it’s ok to start over and go in another direction.

  14. Your post brought back SO MANY memories of trying new things, going two steps back, then moving forward in a better way. If we never make a mistake, we have no opportunity to learn, grow stronger and SUCCEED!

  15. You are so right. My husband and I knew nothing about DIY when we got our 1st home, but because we were strapped for cash, we had to learn how to do things ourselves. Back in the 70’s, we relied on friends who knew, store personnel, books, magazines and a very few videos – no you tube or blogs yet, barely had computers and didn’t know much about those either!!! We learned by trial under fire. Had our share of frustrations and sometimes costly goofs —but we learned! We now can build almost anything, I can sew whatever I want for the house, and we also learned how to cook great food!!!
    I can remember, at work, having a call often from a customer about hanging wallpaper. They couldn’t find the repeat – so I would grab a couple rolls of the paper and walk her through the process over the phone. Later they would stop back in to thank me for teaching them! No biggie to me, but then I would remember that person long ago who walked me through a process, and I had to thank them too at the time. What a joy to be able to share what we know with those who are eager to learn!

  16. This is really an excellent post. I’m around 15 years older than you and I get asked just about the same question by friends and acquaintances and I just say, “Live long enough and try everything at least once. If you like it or it’s useful, keep trying until you’re satisfied.”

    I’ve been sewing since I was 10 and laughed when I thought of how many stitches I’ve ripped for one reason or another in my lifetime and still do, or how many boards weren’t quite square until I switched from a circular saw to a sliding compound miter saw. (Still hoping for a table saw one day!)

    1. what is a sliding mitre compound saw. i have been using a sabre saw and have had a hard time getting my wood straight, still trying at 75, hope never to give up.

      1. It’s a miter saw where the arm extends out then down rather than just down. It allows you to cut wider wood than a typical miter saw does. For example if you’re cutting shelving that’s 12″ wide, the average compound miter saw can’t cut anything that wide but a sliding one can; mine goes to 16″ for straight across (90 degree) cuts. Just like a regular compound miter saw it can also be used to cut molding. Unfortunately, it still won’t help you rip down big pieces of plywood or MDF.
        Here’s an ad for a Bosch on YouTube.

        1. I should have mentioned that just switching from a saber saw to a circular saw and a guide will give you straighter cuts if you don’t want to spend the money on the miter. I don’t use sabers for any woodworking due to the lack of control.

          1. Thanks Chris for the information, I did watch the video and was impressed, but for now I will use the a circular saw with a guide, I will have to save my euros to buy a compound saw. I will say I was getting very discouraged with the results from my saber saw.

  17. Bravo! All you said to us is so true and so real!But …. you are so skillful woman! Wish you not to have as many mistakes as before… and NO TEARS ANYMORE!!

  18. My husband died of pancreatic cancer 7 months ago and the amount of jobs the two of us used to do now came to just me. My husband was the perfect combination of a professional in the medical field and extremely handy building decks, remodeling our home and general fixups on the weekends. I was the idea person…but now I have no one to execute my ideas. Until….I remembered you and how you don’t let being a woman be an excuse to not try. I am committed to trying…to allow myself lots of space to make mistakes, to grieve the enormity of my situation and to allow myself grace to finish things in my own time. My new smaller condo will be beautiful because it will be filled with my projects that signify I am trying. The best is yet to come….

    1. I am so sorry for your loss Melanie and bravo for your commitment to trying. Your condo WILL be beautiful.

    2. Sorry for your loss, but great to know that you now have the inspiration to move on and piut your new skills to work.

    3. Melanie, I’m so sorry to hear about your husband. I’m so glad that you’re finding the strength and resolve to move forward with projects and not let your new life circumstances stand in your way.

      When Matt and I first married, I envisioned weekends filled with home activities — fixing up things together, gardening together, landscaping together, etc. As the years passed, and he could no longer even help me with the tiniest of projects, I found that one of my biggest challenges was mental — allowing myself to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the entire project. When we moved into this house, it became an even bigger struggle. It was a big house (much bigger than the condo, at least) with every single square inch, both indoors and outdoors, needing some sort of work done to it. The enormity of the entire project felt suffocating at times in the very beginning, but I finally learned that having tunnel vision was going to be my life saver when it came to remodeling this house. I have tunnel vision for the one or two projects that I’m working on at the very moment, and I just tune the rest out. I mean, there are time when I have to focus on them to plan ahead, get supplies ordered, or get contractors lined up to do specific jobs, etc. But for the most part, I just keep that tunnel vision focused on the current project. When it’s done, I check it off my list and decide what project I want to tackle next. That tunnel vision has really helped to reduce that anxiety and feeling of being overwhelmed at the entire project (in my case, remodeling an entire old house).

      I’m not sure if that’s even relevant to your situation, but I thought I’d just throw that out there just in case it might help. 🙂 Best wishes to you, and I KNOW you can tackle these projects yourself.

      1. Thank you so much for your encouragement. When life collapses suddenly, and you watch someone suffer that is your entire life and soulmate, it takes time to regroup and wonder how to move forward. Reading your blog and seeing that decisions CAN be undone — things can be REpainted and it’s okay to change your mind has been a huge inspiration. Although I have my own career and am strong and independent, I’ve been paralyzed to make even the smallest decision. Thank you for building women up, for giving them permission to fail — or to change our minds! Every day is a new chance to begin again.

  19. You are not only good at the things you do, but you are a wonderful soul as well! I’m so glad I found your blog!

  20. Beautiful lesson for everyone! I too have spent countless hours with the seam ripper in hand but you learn and go on from there.

  21. Wow, well said, Thankyou! I’m going out back and start building my “she shed”. You a truly an inspiration ❤️Ellen

  22. Thank you, Kristi! This is something I needed to hear. It’s something I repeatedly need to hear.

  23. Kristi, your posts are so inspiring! I learn so much about perseverance and hard work from you. You are amazing but I know you got there because of your work ethic……and talent. I look forward to every one of your blogs. When I do a project around the house, your blog is my “go to” for directions and materials to use. Thank you so much, Kristi!

  24. Keep on keeping on Kristi! Never stop doing what you do and never, ever feel as if you owe someone a response to their questions, which in this case seems to stem from envy. Everyone and I mean everyone has gifts. They simply need to find theirs and that takes commitment and dedication to self and self awareness. I envy others for some of the gifts they possess. God bless us all for our diversity. If we all did everything the same way with perfection how boring would that be! I admire so many who do things much better than I, but that never stops me from trying, failing and trying again. I also know when to ask for help! So keep up the good work and keep on, keeping on, the best is yet to come!

  25. I don’t follow you as much as I did because it’s clear that you have more skill, help and money than I do. Or people I know. We can’t make certain mistakes you can afford to make because we have one shot at it or be out for a very long time.

    1. Yes, it’s not that kristis points aren’t valid because they are and will definitely inspire me to try some cheaper projects. But when it comes to home renos the main reason I diy is to save money, so when I have to do something twice and it ends up costing double, its quite hard to stomach that I could have bought the item or paid someone to do it better, especially when the skills learned are so specialized they really won’t be of benefit in the future. This is a budget friendly blog, and most of the time it doesnt seem like it is, it is more a blog about having an expensive custom look for less than that an expensive custom look should cost along with if you had all the time in the world to first do it and then possibly redo 2 times, which is how i choose to read this blog. Not much comes from the second hand store it seems. It is also kristi’s income/job I assume so it makes sense for her to try and purchase things I could never. As readers, we wouldnt necessarily be able to afford her whole home of projects but just one or two that might benefit us. I could never afford to customize my home the way kristi does. I think of draperies for example, it is much more affordable to buy some panels from walmart, then to purchase the fabric kristi does. Obviously I prefer kristi’s taste wise, but it’s certainly not budget friendly and I have to tell myself that as I read each post.

      1. What I am saying is that the cost of failing is often more than many of us can afford. That’s why we have to get it right or find a way to salvage a mistake. Not do it again at much cost

  26. Excellent blogpost. I really enjoyed your inspiring message. I’m hear to validate your message by saying DO NOT ALLOW FEAR to stop you from doing what you dream. You can accomplish anything your heart desires, all you have to do is try…and then try again. I’m 65, and I haven’t seriously sang except to the radio or lullabies to my grand babies since I was a teen. eleven months ago I downloaded a karaoke app to my iPhone and I am having A BLAST and will be going live karaoke tomorrow evening for the third time. I love every moment I’m singing. I make ‘music videos’ with my app. I never dreamed I would ever do that but it is so FUN!!! Throw caution to the wind and do what brings JOY to your life…you only live once…don’t waste another day not pursuing your dreams. 😎

  27. Great post today…you are still incredibly talented!! I think my favorite thing you’ve done is your liter box. I love how they get in and out.

  28. I appreciate your transparency. I have started to learn to build in part because I’ve seen you talk about your frustrations, mistakes, and the fact that you just try it. Thank you!

  29. Kristi, I love your posts and how you explain why, whenever you do something over. It has helped make me less afraid something won’t work and have to do it over. I will now tear stuff apart and re-do if I don’t like how it turned out, even if there was nothing really “wrong” with it. I have to like it, and that’s the important goal.

    I found this quote that for me, sums up the lesson:
    “There is no such thing as failure, there is only early attempts at success” – Theodore Roosevelt.

    Thank you for sharing your early attempts and eventual successes! You rock!

  30. Your post came at the perfect time. I showed my 17 year old granddaughter your video yesterday. She was amazed at what you do. Can’t wait to show her this post. Her mother is becoming a great example to her by attempting and accomplishing so many projects around the house.

  31. Best. Blog post. Ever.
    Shared with my circle. Thus is a great message to everyone afraid to tackle any challenge.
    Thank you for sharing.

  32. Agreeing with everyone else this is an excellent post. I wish I could tattoo it on the inside of my eyelids so I could see it every day and be reminded of its message.

    I work in the legal field and when we make mistakes they can cause a lot of problems, turmoil and tons of extra work, but *usually* the mistakes can be fixed and are not totally devastating unless someone *really* messes up and blows it completely, which thank goodness so far has never happened. We have a mantra around here – “I chose law instead of medicine because if I make a mistake, no one dies!” You can better believe that when we do make a mistake, what *not* to do is forever branded on our brains and we rarely if ever make the same mistake twice.

    Life experience and mistakes are great ways to teach us how to do things and how NOT to do things. We’re only human, mistakes are bound to happen and I keep having to remind myself of that, and also remind myself how you handle things, Kristi. I think I need a “WWKD” (“What Would Kristi Do?”) t-shirt! But honestly my issue in my personal life with making mistakes is the lost money, time, and enthusiasm they cause me, and I really can’t afford to lose any of those. I’m one of those perfectionist sorts who is frozen with the inability to move forward out of fear I’m really going to mess something up. I even delay on my sewing projects, which in all honestly aren’t *that* big a deal if I mess up, the seam ripper was invented for a reason (like why there’s an eraser on the top of a pencil!). I’d love to be able to kick myself in the butt to get going, so will push myself this weekend to start on something in the sewing room for Mother’s Day.

  33. Kristi,
    Your post reminds me that those of us who raised with a parent who expected perfection (and at 86 still does) have had to fight against that perfectionist syndrome our whole life. While it leads high levels of accomplishments in some areas, it robs us of the journey and joy of learning in other areas. We forget that a master in any trade (carpenter, electrician, plumber, landscaper, designer, etc) usually has apprenticed themselves for years.p to master the skills they have. Yes, you do make it look easy, but it’s refreshing to hear that behind every project is either a history of mastering a skill set, or the same level of frustration we all experience. Thanks for a terrific post,,

  34. You speak the truth. Wise words that I will take to heart—and forward to many of my friends. Thank you.

  35. Amen! Nothing worth doing or well done comes easily (at least to most of us). Bless you for acknowledging not only the hard work you put into these projects, but the many mistakes that are made in order to acquire each and every skill you have. It gives the rest of us hope! I love your blog!

  36. Hi Kristi–I always get a little lift when I see a new post from you in my inbox. This one was so, so true. I wrote a post of my own using your ideas as a jumping-off point, and urging people to sign up for your updates even if they’re not interested in decorating/renovating per se because you’re such a great kick in the ribs! Here’s my post, if you’re interested:

  37. Kristi! Of all the BRILLIANT things I’ve read and seen from you, in all the years I’ve followed you, this tops them all!
    In my early twenties I was fortunate to work and learn under the tutelage of Tony Robbins. I learned much, the most life-changing of which was to appreciate the value of my mistakes. Our mistakes pay for our triumphs! They are treasures! That’s not a feel-good statement but an inescapable truth.
    We were created to learn through trial and error.
    How did any one of us learn the meaning of ‘hot’ but by touching the stove top our mother repeatedly warned us to not to touch? It was a painful mistake! And a necessary mistake in order to experience ‘hot’. A mistake that saved us many times over.
    I couldn’t agree with you more wholeheartedly than I do on today’s post. You are a delight, a champion, and an inspiration! Thank you so very much!