Learning by grace

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 9.02.46 AM
Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 9.02.46 AM

As the end of my first term atCivilla draws near, I can’t help but think about the mistakes I’ve made.

It’s funny how my mind tends to center on the mess-ups. Maybe it was my upbringing or maybe it’s an innate tendency to see what is wrong versus what is right in situations. Whatever it is, I’m analytical by nature and although this has its benefits, it can also be a burden to bear, especially when analysis skews negative.

This term I have been learning human centered design methods and mindsets in both theory and practice. I have been able to lead ethnographic user interviews, practice prototyping, run user testing, and take part in strategy meetings. It has been a dream of an experience as my learning objectives this year involve design and social innovation.

But as I consider all of these incredibly valuable experiences, I can’t help but to think that I take away a much more important lesson: grace is necessary when learning.

In a year of learning, risk-taking, living in a new city, and trying different modes of work for the first time, mistakes are bound to be made. I am incredibly grateful that my community at Civilla met my mistakes with grace.

A specific incident comes to mind. When I did not perform well on a project, one of the co-founders of Civilla, Adam, met my failure with words of kindness. He first addressed the mistakes I made and how I could improve for upcoming projects. But then Adam stated that he’d work with me again anytime, and that the particular project that I felt flustered with couldn’t have happened without my contributions.

In Adam’s correction, recommendations for improvement, and affirmation there was an extension of grace.

This moment was not a singular experience. Whether it was Adam, Mike (Co-Founders of Civilla), Lena (Design Mentor) or Claire (Fellow Ei Classmate), when I messed up, each of them offered me grace and even encouraged me to offer it to myself as well.

Grace does not simply condone mistakes made, but it empowers one to learn from them and to move forward. The grace that Civilla extended encouraged me to move on, eliminating the paralyzing power of the fear of making mistakes and offering a freedom to become more effective.

It is true that mistakes should not be glossed over. But, it is just as true that we are all human, that mistakes are going to be made, and that sometimes in learning, mistakes need to be made in order to get to the gold.

If mistakes are always met with brow beating and anger, there is no way any of us could personally and healthfully become better. Without grace, fear would become the basis of operations, and the work would be subpar as a result.

Civilla has been a haven for me. The community has given me grace to mess up, but also grace to become better. And, they have taught me that the best way to learn when one makes mistakes is to start with a little grace.

James Paek

James has worked for the past ten years as a youth and family counselor, community leader and spiritual director. This work saw him managing community efforts with local government, creative projects, including music, marketing campaigns, and film, and campaigns against human-trafficking domestically and abroad. Working in the music industry as a songwriter specializing in top line (lyrics and melody) with artists and producers alike, James also values the connection between social change, artistic expression, and honest storytelling. James hopes to delve into the world of social entrepreneurship and social innovation through human-centered design, connecting creative design strategy and expression to promote social good.

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