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You Have the Right To Make Mistakes, Lose Everything and Start Over

May 8, 2010


A few weeks ago I took my little family into Philadelphia for a day in the big city. We went to a museum, ate dinner at a trendy restaurant, and did some shopping. 

As we were walking down Walnut Street, my older daughter suddenly stopped us in our tracks. She turned around and blurted out, “We have to find Lush! Please, can we go to Lush? It’s the greatest store! Mom is going to love it!” 

Lush, it turns out, is a funky little boutique that sells soaps and cosmetics, with delicious-looking chunks and bars laid out in shelves and barrels throughout the store. Never mind that I wanted to eat everything I saw rather than rub it on my skin, but it all made sense when the friendly sales person explained that the store concept was modeled after a European deli. 


To help save the environment, Lush avoids all packaging and plastics by selling the product raw. Thus, the barrels and buckets. Even the shampoo is sold in bars rather than in a plastic bottle. 

As my kids perused the soapy goods and my wife enjoyed a free massage, I turned to examine a poster on the wall that explained the company’s core beliefs. It was nice stuff about using natural products, making everything themselves, not hurting animals in the process – you know, the usual millennial-urban-hippie-vegan lifestyle fare. But one line in their core beliefs struck me, and has stuck with me: 

 We believe…in the right to make mistakes, lose everything and start again.

Well. What a strange thing for a company to believe in. 

It’s not the making mistakes part that hit me, it’s about the right to make mistakes. And to lose everything! It makes me feel terrified and liberated and inspired all at the same time. 

But what do you think – would this core belief allow their employees to take more risks, to invent more scented products, to beautify their unique brand even more? Probably. Would it even give them a sense of freedom? Or would they just screw up more often? 

What if you gave yourself the right to make mistakes, lose everything and start over again? 

Would anything change? 

Thanks to nAncY for the beautiful photo.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2010 10:55 am

    The test would be to see how much I could lose before losing my job there. In other words, is it a nice statement or a cultural norm of the company?

    I had a boss who’d send me on any task I told him I could do. He believed me and gave me his blessing. Of course, it didn’t help when I burned out his emergency brake or ruined a crew lunch or got reported for driving too fast (See, the company number was on the side of the van…).

    Still, I thrived in that environment.

    • May 10, 2010 5:06 am

      Yes, I agree that too many mistakes will just end up being dumb. (Not that you were dumb, Sam…) I think the emphasis from this company is on taking risks? Not sure, though.

      • May 10, 2010 7:10 am

        What I mean is that I was encouraged to take risks for this employer and that’s what made me thrive. The mistakes I made were few and incidental (I offered to pay for the e-brake) and perhaps fewer than in other places because I wanted to succeed for the boss.

        His investment in me resulted in my investment in the company.

  2. May 8, 2010 11:49 am

    This gave me goosebumps. Better than good post, Bradley. Thanks for noticing.

  3. May 8, 2010 1:44 pm

    it sounds more like an amendment to the constitution then a company slogan.

    actually, president obama would probably like this one.

  4. May 8, 2010 1:55 pm

    Yes! Fear of failure is a biggie for this woman. Trying to live more freely these days, but once you make your bed, it’s hard to mess it back up again! Thanks for this. I’m thinking about messing up. In a good way.

    • May 10, 2010 5:08 am

      That’s right – you have permission to start over! I like how you quickly went to “living more freely” when you think about the right to make mistakes. How that ends up being associated with freedom is kind of strange…

  5. May 8, 2010 7:59 pm

    when you say…everything…
    does that mean
    e v e r y t h i n g ?!

    • May 10, 2010 5:09 am

      Yes, I think it means everything. Depending on how big the risk is, what you are willing to go for in life.. why not? (Okay, maybe not at risk of your life or your health..)

  6. May 8, 2010 9:07 pm

    I like that losing everything isn’t the end.

  7. Andrew Turner permalink
    May 9, 2010 12:52 am

    Believe it or not, I’ve lived it. Coming through, I must say:

    Tough as hell, best thing ever.

    It’s like this: you marry a woman even though doing so well leaves you wide open exposed to heartbreak, and the more passion you put into it, the greater the potential for hurt. But if you don’t, you rob yourself of the joy of living and having that wife. Hold onto yourself too much and you’ll likely even ruin the marriage.

    Likewise, you apply this credo to your life and you really start to live, with all the joy and heartbreak that entails.

    Fear destroys. That’s all there is too it.

  8. May 9, 2010 9:24 am

    Good job again, Brad. As usual. You and I think a lot alike, but you think a lot better and write so much better than I! donkimrey

  9. Anna permalink
    May 10, 2010 2:36 pm

    I’m reading Orbiting the Giant Hairball (A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace) by Gordon MacKenzie right now. Your blog post is another similar bit of inspiration for me. I remember a manager I worked for, who really had to push me to think beyond the box and stretch myself in taking risks…I could not believe how accustomed I had gotten to the safe way of doing things. It was that project that won awards for creative design. I still have to kick myself today to not hamper that right to make mistakes. And to not discount God’s will in all things because sometimes He asks us to step out of our comfort zone and take the risky way!

    • May 10, 2010 5:54 pm

      Now there’s a book I would love… How come I’ve never heard of it? THatnks for bringing it to my attention – I will go check it out.

      Thanks for your comment – It is so easy for most of us to revert to “safe” mode. May we all see the value of taking risks at the right time, with wisdom and counsel.

  10. Phil permalink
    May 10, 2010 6:11 pm

    I can see why you would be captured by the tricky line Bradley, but the “right to make mistakes” at work is a delicate balance for me. My company makes instruments used to inspect critical vehicles and devices. I’m talking commercial airliners, bridges, pipelines, turbines, even the space shuttle. If we screw up, I get to watch it on CNN. My tolerance for “mistakes” of a critical nature is near zero. I can live with little ones; typos on a proposal, overpaying an invoice, dropping a client’s call, but the risk of making a biggy causes me to keep my eye on the ball.

  11. May 10, 2010 11:45 pm

    Thanks for the visit. And for the record… I’ve worked in sales so I recognize a script or a sales tactic from a mile away. 🙂

    By the way, I can give myself permission to make mistakes, but if it were at the expense of losing everything… not sure I could do that. Guess I’m really just a coward at heart.

  12. revdrron permalink
    May 11, 2010 12:56 pm

    We all make mistakes but who among us is willing to lose everything and start again? “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3.8).

    Even more, who among us is willing to sell everything in order to start again? Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19.21, NIV).

    Speaking of core values, enjoy!

  13. May 11, 2010 6:23 pm

    Hmmm sounds to me like “grace” and “forgiveness”…while I don’t necessarily agree that we have the “right” for anything, it is a reality of our fallen messy selves that we always make mistakes…and that’s why we thank God for his undeserved Grace and Forgiveness! (and why statements like this one catch our attention) 😉

    It’s through grace and forgiveness that we can drop our fears, be free to make ourselves vulnerable, and be empowered to discover and experience more of who God created us to be!…wonder what would happen if we had more grace and forgiveness collectively how we’re supposed to as the Body…

    P.s. I work 2 blocks away from that shop, walk past it nearly everyday – and have never gone in! I think I have a good reason to now! Maybe buy some nice soap to remind me of the cleansing freedom we have through God’s grace and forgiveness…

  14. Sam permalink
    August 28, 2011 5:41 am

    I work at Lush in Las Vegas. There’s a story behind that quote. The original owners of Lush (which actually wasn’t called Lush back then) had started their business in Poole, England. It took off pretty quickly, but back then they didn’t have the smarts to get patents for their products (Lush is actually the originator of the Bath Bomb, Bubble Bar, Shampoo Bar, and 95% of the unique products we sell); which ultimately resulted in them having to go out of business. They lost everything. They gave up for a while but their passion eventually brought them back and they began the business we know and love today.

    Couldn’t be prouder to work for such an amazing company.

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