Tag Archive for: best mistake

The best mistake of: Svenja Vollmer

“My gut feeling said it. My colleagues said it. I ignored all voices and ended up hiring the wrong candidate for the job.”

Sometimes we are too afraid of making mistakes, that out of fear for the possible consequences, we don’t take any action. Afraid to fail, afraid about what our environment thinks about it, afraid that it doesn’t fit in our “Instagrammable perfect life”…

Which is such a shame, because making mistakes is THE way to learn and develop yourself. That is why we at Doors Open celebrate making mistakes! Every month we interview entrepreneurs, leaders, professional athletes… People who, just like you, have gotten to where they are by failing and standing up again.They have told us about their best mistake: a mistake which has taught them a lot and has helped them greatly in their development.

In this edition

Svenja Vollmer

Residence: The Hague

Profession: Team Leader Youth and Women Empowerment, Division for Peace, United Nations Institute for Training and Research

An important part of Svenja’s job at the United Nations Institute for Training & Research (UNITAR) is to recruit both consultants and interns to support her team to implement training and capacity building projects. Not too long ago, she was in need for a new team member for a specific project. She knew upfront that a hectic schedule in that part of the year wouldn’t allow for the same sort of mentorship and guidance she usually offers to her team members, so she needed someone with experience, a steep learning curve and the ability to work independently. She ended up hiring someone with none of those skills.

What did you do wrong during the selection process for this particular candidate?

When I am recruiting, I am always faced with some sort of moral dilemma. I feel that it is my role and that of UNITAR – I mean, we are a training institute AND part of the United Nations – to offer empowering opportunities to people and to embrace diversity. The aspiration of the UN is to portrait the whole world, so I always pay attention to this in the recruitment process.

For this specific role, I had 3 possible candidates on the short list, all with different cultural as well as educational backgrounds. I ended up recruiting one of the candidates. She wasn’t the one that was the most qualified, but she met my values of diversity and empowerment. However, by putting these values upfront, I was putting my own needs and the needs of the organization at a second place.

“It turned out to be a mistake that affected both parties in a negative way.”

For my team member, who was not familiar with the UN context and not used to our way of working, it was quite a frustrating moment, as she didn’t get the time, dedication and mentorship that she needed. On the other hand, I was still faced with a deadline and a job that had to be done.

What did you learn from this?

It showed me that it’s important to be realistic when making a choice for a new team member, looking at your own time and resources. And of course that you need to balance your emotions and rational thoughts, as well as your values and the needs of the organization at that moment. My trainer’s heart almost always roots for the underdog. I am a very compassionate person and when I see someone with potential – and this woman certainly had that – I immediately think: “I can empower this person”. And if I would have hired this particular person for the same or another position in a different moment, I am sure that things would have worked out much better for both of us. So for future selection processes, I will make sure to be able to respond both to the needs of the organization AND the team member.

Is there something you could have done differently?

Yes. My colleagues were quite frank with me and expressed their doubts about my selection and the reasons for it, from the beginning. And honestly, my gut feeling also told me that I wouldn’t be able to give her the guidance she needed. I based my decision too much on my values, and in the end, no one was benefiting from that.

I also have the tendency to believe that the easiest choice may be the wrong one. That it’s wrong to hire the person who doesn’t need any guidance, because then you just make it easy on yourself. Now I know that sometimes, in everybody’s best interest, it’s best to go for this kind of solution. Don’t be too hard on yourself!

The best mistake of: Cees Juffermans

“I remember thinking: “what am I supposed to do now?” This was my dream. This was what I had been dreaming about as a young boy. And that one chance was gone because of my own stupid mistake.”

Sometimes we are too afraid of making mistakes, that out of fear for the possible consequences, we don’t take any action.  Afraid to fail, afraid about what our environment thinks about it, afraid that it doesn’t fit in our “Instagrammable perfect life”…

Which is such a shame, because making mistakes is THE way to learn and develop yourself. That is why we at Doors Open celebrate making mistakes! Every month we interview entrepreneurs, leaders, professional athletes… People who, just like you, have gotten to where they are by failing and standing up again.They have told us about their best mistake: a mistake which has taught them a lot and has helped them greatly in their development.

In this edition:

Cees Juffermans

Residence: Stompwijk

Profession: former olympic athlete, Chief Marketing Officer at the Invictus Games 2020.

On 12 February 2006 Cees Juffermans has the chance to write history in Dutch sports during the Olympic games in Turin. He was in the semi-finals of the 1500 meters short track. The final in sight, chance of winning a medal, never before has a Dutch shottracker gotten so far. Although in that moment the sport was relatively unknown in the Netherlands, on this sunday all of a sudden Cees became known worldwide. But not the way he was hoping he would…

Before the lenses of hundreds of cameras, thousands of spectators in the stadium and millions of viewers on TV, the Stompwijker was taken down by another skater in the last curve. In short track this means an automatic free pass to the next round. The finals. But it only counts if you complete the full round. And that is what Cees doesn’t do. Just a few meters before the finish he steps off the ice. In sports, this is counted as resignation, as a “did not finish”. Gone was his spot in the final, the chance of winning a medal. This mistake makes Cees fall back to 18th place in the final ranking and shatters his childhood dream.

What did you do when you realized what had happened?

“I only realized what has happened when I was in the changing room. I know the rules. Even worse: during my training the rules where always emphasized.  Whatever happens, always make sure you cross the finish line. I have no clue why I stepped off the ice early. I must have had a complete black-out.”

As a top athlete you are certainly not alone, you have a whole team around you. Even so Cees does not blame anyone else but himself. “Of course I can think “why did nobody warn me that I had to finish the race in that moment?” But in the end the responsibility lies on my shoulders. Therefore, shortly after my mistake I walked up to the media and made this clear.”

What did you learn from this incident?

“A lot. I still make mistakes, every day. We all do. But this is one of those mistakes you won’t ever forget. It sounds crazy, but it has done a lot for me. It made me realize that so often we are focused on the end result, even though the process to get there might be way more important than the goal itself. If you have dreams, chase them. Don’t let anyone stop you. And yes, at one point you will fall flat on your face. In my case literally. So what? You get up again. The world is not going to end.”

“Mistakes only make you stronger. Suddenly I was standing in the spotlight, everyone had an opinion. I chose to put the negative critics aside.”

It made me realize that people close to you,  do not judge you for the mistakes you make. The negative reactions were primarily from people that were not as close to me. Not only when I made this mistake by the way. Being a professional athlete can be pretty lonesome. When others my age met at the bar during the weekends, I was training extremely hard. Of course people had their own thoughts on this, but I chose not to listen to them. That is also what I really want to advise others: don’t let what others might think or say about you influence you. It is YOUR dream, and they are YOUR choices. Do what you love and remember what you are doing it for. What is the reason you get up every day? Even if you make mistakes, don’t give up and try to do it a little bit better than yesterday.”

What did you change after this mistake?

“I started looking at my athletic career differently, as a whole, instead of that one goal alone. I might not have won an Olympic medal, but I still feel like I got everything I could have out of my dream. And I am still benefiting from the experiences I had and the network I built in those years. I have also changed my perspective about what is really important to me. What do I want to “leave behind”? How can I make a change in society? The misstep in Turin really made me think. How terrible would it be if you look back on your career and you realize that you’ve only done things that others expected you to do, instead of chasing your own dreams?”


Do you want to share your best mistake? Share it to info@doors-open.nl! Maybe you are the next feature on our blog!

The best mistake of: Suzanne Mau-Asam

“My gut feeling said: don’t do this. I ignored it. Afterwards it turned out that my feeling was right.”

Sometimes we are too afraid of making mistakes, that out of fear for the possible consequences, we don’t take any action.  Afraid to fail, afraid about what our environment thinks about it, afraid that it doesn’t fit in our “Instagrammable perfect life”…

Which is such a shame, because making mistakes is THE way to learn and develop yourself. That is why we at Doors Open celebrate making mistakes! Every month we interview entrepreneurs, leaders, professional athletes… People who, just like you, have gotten to where they are by failing and standing up again. They share their best mistake: a mistake which has taught them a lot and has helped them greatly in their development.

In this edition

Suzanne Mau-Asam

Residence: The Hague

Profession: Founder and owner of Doors Open (Learning & Development company) and Doors Open Female Hub (coworking & co-learning for female entrepreneurs)

Suzanne Mau-Asam

What is your best mistake?

“In January 2018, next to Doors Open, I opened the Female Hub. That was quite some work: I had to search for a suitable location, this needed to be renovated and marketing needed to start running. And all this in 3 months time and ‘in between all the companies’, as I also continued with Doors Open giving leadership trainings, Learning & Development advices and team building sessions. As I also work a lot on my own development, my plan was to travel to California for a training to become a somatic coach at the Strozzi Institute. But this collided with the date of the opening and the first weeks of the Female Hub. Hence I needed operational support. Someone who could run the place while I was gone. Via a friend of mine I got a tip for someone that was ‘was really good’.”

“I lost revenue and additional costs incurred because of this. I ended the cooperation, but obviously was not able to catch up for the lost weeks.”

“So I had an interview with this freelancer. My gut feeling said ‘Suzanne, you should not do this. You are not on the same page. I am sure she cannot deliver what you need’. I ignored the feeling, tried to rationalize it. Certainly I can trust my friend’s opinion, right? And even more importantly: I needed someone, and didn’t have enough time to find an alternative.

The uncomfortable feeling stayed. When I handed over the keys of the Female Hub I was still not 100% convinced that this was the right decision. Still, I got on the plane. Again I tried to let my reasoning prevail. ‘You can call from the US, Skype, e-mail and keep control of what is going on in the Hub’.

When I got back from the US however, it turned out that I should have listened to my gut feeling. Tasks were not done according to the instructions and the quality level was far from what I and my partners would have expected. I lost revenue and additional costs incurred because of this. I ended the cooperation, but obviously was not able to catch up for the lost weeks that I was absent.”

“It is scientifically proven that the front part of your brain works less well when you are under pressure.”

What did you learn from this?

“Three important lessons. Firstly, the fact that someone is you friend does not necessarily mean that he or she has the same vision in business matters. Business relations are very different from friendships. It is important to be aware of this and to keep things separate. That does not mean that you can never work together with friends. But you do have to make sure that you are on the same page when it comes to entrepreneurship and doing business. I think that is one of the reasons why I enjoy working with people who have, like me, studied at Hotelschool. I feel like they have the same way of thinking and working. You really don’t always have to agree on everything, but you have to be on the same page regarding the most important topics. Within these topics your opinions and insights can still differ.

Secondly, thanks to this situation I was once more confronted with the fact that it is so  important to listen to your gut feeling. Sure, big data, analysis of statistics, technology, it’s all important to companies. I also set targets for my business, I analyse the “hard” facts, but in the end I think that ‘doing things by feeling’ is just as important. That feeling is there for a reason. This regularly goes unnoticed in our society, which is a shame.

Finally this mistake made me realise how important it is to take a short break, when you are stressed. It is scientifically proven that the front part of your brain works less well when you are under pressure. This leads to a higher chance of making the wrong decisions. It can really help to “sleep on it” for a night to see things from an new perspective.”

Was there an alternative which could have prevented you from making this mistake?

“My alternative was, to postpone the opening of the Female Hub. This would have allowed me to take a calm decision and I could have chosen for a different partner. I did however really want to let the opening go on. Looking back, I don’t think I would have done it differently.”

What have you been doing differently after this mistake?

“I am handling my feelings more consciously. At work I increasingly use somatics techniques. In contrast to more traditional methods, where the IQ (intelligence) and EQ (emotions) are seen as separate, this theory assumes that humans do not consist of separate parts, but that body, brain and soul are one.

Somatics techniques help you to rely on your feelings more consciously, which can be very valuable both for your private and professional life. It teaches you to reflect continuously: what do I feel and why do I feel this? It also helps you to not always make choices à la minute. There is no need to do so. Unless it is a matter of life and death, for example if there is a house on fire.

I cannot really say I am happy that I have made this mistake, but I have learned a lot from it. And that’s what is going to help me in my further development!


Do you want to share your best mistake? Share it to info@doors-open.nl! Maybe you are the next feature on our blog!