Mistakes to Magic

What is your favorite mistake? Namely, what mistake have you made that led to something completely unexpected, possibly even beautiful?

After listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast interview with Dax Shepard, I was completely inspired and intrigued. I find our lives’ paths to be utterly fascinating, especially when something “bad” turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

For anyone who has listened to Ferriss’ podcast, you have heard him ask this question before. But there was something about Shepard’s answer that struck a chord with me and made me want to write this post.

Shepard’s biggest mistake began to unfold when he started relating to himself as a writer/producer, no longer an actor. He had landed some big jobs and was feeling pumped. But, as things progressed, it didn’t work out. He was crushed. So crushed, that he spent months being upset and thinking it over and over.

And then it happened. Shepard had the inspiration to start his podcast (which incidentally has become wildly successful.) He said if he had kept on going down the producer route, he would have taken bigger and bigger projects and been away from his young kids too much. Not to mention the fact that the movie business is now stunted due to COVID…

Instead, a self-proclaimed lover of talking, he is doing a podcast he enjoys. He is able to be at home all the time with his kids, thus allowing his wife, Kristen Bell, to travel for her work. Plus, he makes even more money.

Sometimes when it rains, it pours.

It really got me thinking… We think we know what we want for ourselves and our lives. But just like Shepard said, often when he did what he thought he wanted to do (like do a crazy stunt filled movie) it wasn’t fulfilling. But then fate intervened. He failed. Yet it opened the door for his podcast, an endeavor which better suits his life and has turned out to be even more successful.

This sentiment fit right into all my recent happiness and well-being research. One thing I was blown away by in my findings is how often our minds lead us down the wrong road. I have been studying happiness research since early 2000’s and this is the first time it hit home that what we think will make us happy is often mistaken.

Though we clearly want what is best for ourselves and our families, according to Dr. Laurie Santos, Yale professor and host of the popular Happiness Lab podcast, we often have “miswantings.” I was so fascinated by this research that I dove in and enrolled in Santos’ phenom course, The Science of Well-being.

Though I could go on forever about Dr. Santos and all the amazing things I learned in the course and the difference she has made in the world, I will stick to the topic of mistakes. I’m sure, like me, you are curious about miswantings. Here are a couple examples of where our minds lead us astray.

First, we really think awesome stuff will make us happy. Nope. It might make us temporarily happy, but eventually it will just become normal. This process, called hedonistic adaptation, keeps people on the consumer treadmill. Once they get used to whatever they have, they need more and more to be happy.

A second miswanting is that we think good things will make us happier than they will; so we often go after the wrong things. And, as an inverse of that, we also think that bad things will make us more upset than they actually will. All of this tricks us into going after certain things and avoiding others. Sadly, that keeps us away from what actually would make us happier in the first place! (Like personal connection, meditation, exercise, and sleep.) [If you want to dig into this more please reach out. I have lots of research and, of course,  you can also check out Dr. Santos’ work as well.]

Thanks to studying Dr. Santos’ “miswantings” I  find such freedom in the following:

  • If we don’t get what we think we want, it won’t be as bad as we think.
  • And, if we mess up and bomb out, it also won’t be as bad as we expect.
  • So why not keep trying anyway?

It wasn’t until after I listened to Shepard’s interview that I stopped to fully reflect on my own unexpected bonuses, and how my mistakes and misfortunes have actually taken me down better roads. When looking back, it can be pretty crazy to see where mistakes and misfortunes have led. So, I invite you to take a few minutes and think about your favorite mistake. I’ll even give you a few prompts to get you started.

But, to wrap up this post, I want to share one of my sister’s thoughts. She says something like this… “Just when you think something isn’t working out, consider that maybe it is working out just as it should be.” Pretty wise, little sis!

To making mistakes, learning and growing on this crazy adventure. Thanks for reading. Now go make some magic in the twists and turns of your life!

PS- Thanks to Mic Johnson for sharing his quote. It fits perfectly with the sentiment of this post…

Sometimes the struggle blooms into magic 🙂 You can find more “#micologies” here.

And of course thanks to Dax Shepard for being vulnerable, keeping it real and sharing his stories. 


Favorite Mistake Prompts:

  • What is your favorite mistake?
  • What unexpected turn did your life take as a result?
  • What did you learn from it?
  • How can you take that lesson and use it in your life today?
  • Are you open to making mistakes in your life? Why or why not?
  • What mistake are you making right now? (Maybe you aren’t even aware of it.)
  • What did your favorite mistake make possible for you?
  • How did it shift your life?
  • What insights can you take from this?
  • How can you use all you’ve learned to help teach your children?
  • What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to that time with all that you know now?



The Tim Ferriss Show [Tim Ferriss]. https://tim.blog/2020/11/18/dax-shepard/

The Happiness Lab Podcast. [Dr. Laurie Santos] https://www.happinesslab.fm

The Science of Well-being Course. https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being

[The Science of Well-Being is Yale’s most popular class and is generously available for free on Coursera. Over a million people have enrolled and Dr. Santos’ work has been extremely valuable for people around the world during COVID.]


  1. Allison
    December 7, 2020

    Great post, especially for this Holiday season.

    1. Laura Haver
      December 8, 2020

      Thank you so much, Allison. Wishing you and your family a happy holiday.

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