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Mistakes Can Hook Us

By Joey Havens

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My wife, Cathy, has fallen in love with fly fishing (or at least the concept of fly fishing as our skills are lacking for sure). She loves the clear streams, colorful trout and wonderful scenery.

As you can see from the photo, (which I understand she posted on Facebook with the comment, “When I hooked my man I really hooked him.”), she did hook more than a rainbow trout on our recent trip to Montana. At the invite of our friend Tim Bartz, we were on the beautiful rolling Missouri River between Helena and Great Falls, Montana. Our mission: two fun-filled days learning how to fly fish while floating down the rumbling Missouri.

As you can see in this second photo, she began to get the hang of it and caught several beautiful hard-fighting rainbow trout. Not sure if you have ever landed a river trout but they are determined fighters. And I’m sharing this blog because of how proud I am of Cathy and her determination. What really got my attention was when Cathy pushed past a big mistake and continued to learn a new skill. Not only did we face some challenging weather conditions as it was very cold and windy on day one, we were learning how to fish while floating down the river.  

We both shared laughs and frustrations as we endured the pain of learning the proper techniques while trying to actually catch fish at the same time. As she listened to our guide, Drew, Cathy continued to practice and practice her casts. No matter how frustrating or bad, she always pushed right into another cast and suddenly, she was hooked up on a nice trout. There’s no doubt that when she caught that first fish (yes, before I landed one), it gave her lots of confidence. And it increased her determination to become proficient at fly fishing. She was totally focused and continued to cast her flies until she got them into the right strike zone.  

She had landed three rainbows and unlike the temperatures, her confidence and abilities were rising. She was finding success under tough conditions. And that’s when it happened.  

We were in a strong current, which was swiftly moving our boat downstream, so we were casting quickly and mending right away to allow for a free floating presentation of our flies. As she lifted her flies to begin a new cast, she brought them behind her and was starting forward when we had a strong blast of wind that moved the boat and her flies. As she came forward with her cast, she hooked…ME! Her bottom fly went all the way through my cheek.

Although it stung, I was mostly concerned about her. Obviously, she was worried about me and even after Drew expertly removed the fly from my cheek, she had lost her focus and her confidence. She said, “I’m not going to fish anymore today.” That single incident had stolen her joy, her confidence and her determination. 

As she sat for a moment and inquired for the tenth time if I was okay, both Drew and I encouraged her to get back to fishing. “Are you really okay?” she asked. “Yes, go for it!” I replied.  She stood up and picked up the fly rod. She turned and made a beautiful cast out in front of the boat into the rumbling Missouri. Within five minutes, she had landed her fourth rainbow for the day!

The pain and fear that Cathy felt after making a mistake, especially one that affects others, is one we have all experienced. Remember that the hardest step after a mistake is the first one—even if it’s a small step. It is also the fear of making a mistake that limits us. When we are afraid of making mistakes, we can’t grow fast enough. We never reach our full potential unless we make mistakes and learn from them. 

Let’s make sure we follow Cathy’s example, believe in ourselves, push past our mistakes and fear. Learn fast, learn forward. Pick up your fly rod today and make that cast into the waters of opportunity. That first cast is the first step TOWARDS your full potential. But watch out for those stray flies along the way!