The best mistakes you’ve ever made

by | Jul 28, 2021

There are leaders in football who seek to shape the game. Inevitably, it is the game that does the shaping.

You do not need to go looking for adversity. It will find you. It is unavoidable. When it does, you then have a choice. You can either value or ignore its lessons.

Last year I read actor Matthew McConaughey’s excellent book Greenlights as I tried to get my head around a cancer diagnosis, surgery and its repercussions.

This book has proven an unlikely and valuable source of wisdom.

He speaks of the ‘angels of truth’. They are there always. Everwhere. Knowledge, insight, and in particular, the circumspection of others and their lived experience. But the angels are mostly hidden in plain sight, lost in the noise of our own distraction, and we only tend to access them when we are fucked.

Be fair to say, I have been hunting those ‘angels’ since being diagnosed, but wonder why it took cancer to permit myself to tune into their wisdom.

New beginnings are difficult, as they require a clearing of our own reluctance.

To find the quiet time.

I have reflected deeply on what a lifetime in football taught me. The stories it tells me, and those I tell myself.

The game left me before I was ready to leave it, but not without reason. I accept this. I had my chances. I am comforted that I’ve had a lifetime shaped by the game I fell in love with as a child. I have been very fortunate.

To go deep in order to go forward, and I have felt the momentum change.

The game now having left me created the greatest opportunity of all.

To change something in me. To uncover something that was always inside.

I like to draw, write and teach. To make things.

From our constraints come our opportunities.

Play on!


Make the best mistakes you’ve ever made.

Changing something in you.

Ostensibly those attempting to shape the game, seek to give their club the best chance of success. In many ways, it’s an expectation. That is what leaders do. But too often, it is a play for power and influence, personal identity, rather than what’s best for club and game.

I have been that person.

The difference is often indistinguishable at the time. Such is the cacophony of judgment as people are quickly assigned hero or villain status when they are something in-between.

We tend to see the world as winners and losers, heaven and hell, and it is presented to us in this way. This binary attitude forces us to seek out the quick win, almost knowing that it is can be corrosive to our longer-term growth.

Our desire to create perfect outcomes, or the perception of perfection, takes priority over opportunities for self-expression. Find your voice, define your path, or allow ‘the world’ to define it for you. It is a choice.

This is my charcoal portrait from an Art Room life drawing class.

You might notice the ‘ghost lines’, the mistakes of my previous drawings underneath the finished portrait.

With each iteration and each unsuccessful effort to produce a drawing I was satisfied with, I rubbed them out, but not completely, layering up until the final picture emerged, using the mistakes of the previous effort as a guide to the next attempt.

With art, as in life, our failures are our best teachers. It is the foundation of our work.

Don’t be disheartened by previous failures. Be proud of your ‘ghost lines’ and start over.

Start drawing, start writing, start leading. Start something.

Make mistakes.

Rub them out.

Go again.

Make better mistakes.

Go again.

Make the best mistakes you’ve ever made.


“I shut my eyes in order to see.”

The Post-Impressionist artist, Paul Gauguin



A little app takes highlights and notes from my Kindle and sends ten (you decide the number and frequency) to my email. I have used a Kindle for years, and therefore there are years of highlights and notes for it to access.


It is a daily reminder of the investment you made at a point in your life. Layers of learning, most of which you’d forgotten.
These emails have often encouraged me to revisit a book and reminds me of the gifts that brought me there in the first place.

The other benefit, the highlights are automatically added to Roam Research which I use to write, record notes, plan, strategise etc.

…and a timeless song lyric:

I often have Bruce Springsteen playing when I write.

It is the storytelling.

I love the song Youngstown.

I always thought “Sweet Jenny” was his girlfriend, but I now understand it was the Jeannette Furnace, the blast furnace of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill Works.

The story is a second generation steelworker talking about the collapse of the way of life that he and his family had gone to various wars to fight for, the blue-collar America he was so proud of, “Them big boys did what Hitler couldn’t do”.

Well my daddy come on the Ohio works
When he come home from World War Two
Now the yard’s just scrap and rubble
He said, “Them big boys did what Hitler couldn’t do”
Yeah these mills they built the tanks and bombs
That won this country’s wars
We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam
Now we’re wondering what they were dyin’ for
Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny, I’m sinkin’ down
Here darlin’ in Youngstown

Cameron Schwab
CEO & Founder


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