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Learning From Our Mistakes


Those people who know it all have a hard time learning from their mistakes. Those who are afraid of taking a chance or two and learning any of it are equally disappointing. Ultimately, we would learn more from our occasional blunders if we weren’t so occupied denying them.

Mistakes are the dues we pay for an interesting life. Boring people make less mistakes but they become proportionately more tedious with each failure to take a chance. I’d rather be interesting and have screwed up once or twice, and learned a thing or two. I love the expression by the Nobel Prize winner, Niels Bohr: “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” If you’re making a mistake here and there, it probably means you’re learning faster than the next person.

Most mistakes aren’t painless. It’s okay to forget the pain in the process of learning, but don’t forget what it taught you. Don’t live like Don Quixote, chasing windmills that you can’t control. Exercise your God-given gift of discretion, and fix only what can be fixed. Mistakes are sort of a magic thing – they have the power to turn you into something better than you were before. Some of the learning process comes through contact with other people – good and bad. Try not to make yourself bitter from the particularly poignant mistakes. Buddha says: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

If you’re really an astute person you’ll learn from the mistakes of others. Let’s face it, you don’t have enough time to make them all yourself. Then comes the art of not duplicating – make the mistake once, move on. You can’t let your mistakes define you, but rather guide you. George Bernard Shaw said, “Success does not consist in never making mistakes, but in never making the same one twice.”

Bobbles and fumbles in life are not to be so feared – they are the great professors, the portals of discovery. So go out there and take some chances. Dance on the cusp of challenge, breathe in the rare air of chance. The result may not always be exactly what you want, but you will walk away with a broader spirit and a better mind than you initially brought to the table.

I have, without question, made my share of mistakes, but I have learned so much in the process, I’m thinking of making a few more. I’ll leave you with a quote I really like, by the author, Roy H. Williams: “Follow a trail of bold mistakes, and at the end of it you will find a knowledgeable man.”

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