I recently had an interview with a vice president of my company. She expressed her concern that workers from my generation are too obsessed about career advancement and too afraid of looking stupid or making mistakes. I assured her that my last three years with the company had demonstrated an impressive comfort with making mistakes and looking stupid.
There has been substantial speculation about the nature and origin of the Mormon Work Ethic. Why are there so many successful Mormons in business and technology? Why has the Utah economy weathered the national storm? Why, as one author put it, does the Mormon church have “goofy, mystical ideas that produce wonderful, earthly success”?
Suggestions for the mystery of the Mormon worker-bee phenomenon have included the scriptural link between righteousness and wealth, the self-reliance borne of persecution, the crucible of Mormon missions, the relative youth of the Utah population, the self-discipline of obedience, their attachment to family and community, the rigors of youth programs, their participation in a church that’s “probably the best organized on earth and certainly the most cost effective” on earth, and their fundamental theology that God does not create things ex nihilo, but instead organizes existing chaos.
All of these are likely important. But I believe the most influencing factor has been overlooked: Mormons believe that they willingly chose to come into mortality in order to make lots and lots of mistakes. They believe that falling and getting back up over and over again is the whole reason we are here. As Dieter Uchtdorf said in the last General Conference: “Falling is what we mortals do. But as long as we are willing to rise up again and continue on the path toward the spiritual goals God has given us, we can learn something from failure and become better and happier as a result.”
Three years ago today, I packed up my little, red truck and drove alone from Spanish Fork, Utah to Boise, Idaho to start work at a new job with a new company. The next morning, I started my new job. And it’s been amazing.
It’s been a nonstop adventure with highs I couldn’t have dreamed of and lows I would never have thought I could get through. I’ve made hundreds of mistakes. Some of them seemed devastating at the time. But they’ve not ended my career. In fact, they’ve always led to more opportunity and more growth.
As I reflect on my last three years and look forward to the huge tasks that face me tomorrow morning, I’m grateful for a literal testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I’m grateful to believe in repentance. I’m grateful to know without a doubt that people can improve and progress eternally.
I’m thankful to know already that I’m going to continue falling over and over again. That’s the whole reason I’m here on earth anyway, so it shouldn’t get me down. Returning again to Elder Uchtdorf: “My dear friends and brethren, no matter how many times you have slipped or fallen, rise up! Your destiny is a glorious one! Stand tall and walk in the light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ! You are stronger than you realize. You are more capable than you can imagine. You can do it now!”