This year the United States Post Office commemorates a peculiar stamp from 1918. The Post Office printed red-and-blue stamps with the image of a Curtiss Jenny biplane to inaugurate the new postal air service between the cities of Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and New York City only. The Post Office rushed the print job. The two-color stamps were fed through the press by hand with the red ink laid down first. On the second pass, blue ink was applied. Somehow one sheet of 400 stamps went through the process upside down. No one admits whether the printer inverted other sheets.
One man bought a sheet of 100 stamps and noticed that the airplane was inverted or upside down. That buyer bought more of the stamps, but the others showed the airplane properly positioned. Postal authorities then removed the remainder of these stamps from sale.
Today an ordinary 1918 24-cent Jenny sells for $150.00 or so. In 2007 one inverted Jenny sold for $977,500.00. What an incredible difference for a mistake!
Who would value a mistake? Collectors of rare goods, yes. Anyone else? Most of us seek perfectly made consumer goods. Mass-produced goods appeal to that desire.
You and I make mistakes. We make them often–especially in the realm of writing, blogging, editing–but somewhere along the way, many of us learned to be perfect. We try to erase our mistakes and focus on those moments when everything went as planned. I realize that I have not learned much from the times when everything went well. I have learned when I have botched or mucked up something. Replaying such an episode gives time to think about what went wrong. That holds true with personal relationships, work relationships, writing, playing music, woodworking, planting a garden, and any of the many other things that make up our lives.
Make mistakes, but don’t repeat them! Take time to honor what happened and to learn from it. And maybe someday you and I can meet over a cup of Armenian coffee and swap celebratory stories about our different mistakes.