Managing Mistakes: A Lesson from Bob Ross

2022-04-11T09:35:28-04:00April 11th, 2022|Mindset, Personal Development|

managing mistakes

Like many of us, during COVID lockdown, I found myself streaming more shows than usual. I tried to explore a variety of content, and one show I watched was the Bob Ross documentary on Netflix. 

You remember Bob Ross as the afro-headed, bearded man who painted the happy trees with a soft, soothing voice. He taught watchers how to paint on public television and became a worldwide sensation late in his career. Like many people in the public eye, after his death, he became a legend of sorts. 

The way Bob worked was seemingly unplanned. From start to finish, in 25 minutes on his TV show, he’d go where his imagination and his vision took him–from blank canvas to a pretty little painting. 

We talk about “jumping in and figuring it out on the way down.” 

It occurred to me that this is what Bob did on what seemed like every episode of his show.

He jumped in and went where the paint and his brushes and his imagination took him. 

And he’d do something unexpected. 

At the end of the episode, just when you thought the painting was complete and looked beautiful, he would take the brush and draw a thick dark line down the side of it. 


Did Bob just ruin the painting?

Bob’s approach to managing mistakes was different. He’d say, “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”

He turned the accidental brush stroke into something that worked with the scene in the painting. Often it would become a tree–a focal point–that added depth and made the painting even better than before. When we first believed the brush stroke to be a mistake, it turned into a bonus.


So how does this relate to insurance?

The lesson I take from Bob is not to strive for perfection. Instead, to strive for improvement. 

Too often, we think that our sales scripts have to be perfect…

Our word tracks have to be perfect…

Our presentations have to be perfect…

The minute we make a mistake, we bail. We think we ruined the picture. When really, it could be we did something to improve it. And sometimes, we’re in the moment, and the best and only approach is to own it, move forward, and go with it. 

And the worst-case scenario, even if it doesn’t work out during that conversation or interaction, it’s going to make you better for next time.


So maybe you didn’t ask the question and shut up and just listen. Maybe you answered it for them. 

Maybe you asked a closed-ended question, which allowed the prospect to say ‘No,’ and you think you blew it. 

Maybe you didn’t follow the sales process the way you know you’re supposed to, and you just reverted to using a quick apples-to-apples price-only quote.

Or maybe, you sold out of your own pocket. You didn’t listen to what they said was important to them, which may have been a $500 to $600 a month Life plan. You scaled back because you thought that was too much.


Whatever your mistakes are during the process, make them “happy.” Learn from them.

It’s not the end of the world. 

The beauty of working in a “high-contact sport” in a high-volume world like we do means getting lots of learning opportunities. We grow from them, and a lot of times, it’s a good thing when these things happen.

So next time you don’t execute exactly how you wanted, use Bob’s method for managing mistakes — turn the misstep into a “happy little accident.”

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