When was the last time you made a real ripsnorter of a mistake?
I don’t mean some little misstep which resulted in a few minutes of inconvenience or a slight alteration in your route. I am talking about the type of mistake that you reflect on continuously for a long time, the type that matters, that changes your path.
“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.”
~ dryly observed by Oscar Wilde
I like the attitude here, but have a quibble …
We all make mistakes, since we are human and therefore not perfect. Many of us also hate admitting that we have made a mistake, so we reframe our mistakes as “experience”, which does have a much nicer ring to it.
However, I wonder if we do ourselves a disservice when we try to tidy up our mistakes by rebranding them … and that is exactly what we do when we call a real screw-up a “learning experience”.
We will learn much more when we correctly and humbly identify a really big mistake as exactly that … a mistake. A mistake is when you are wrong or misguided … period. You do not automatically learn something when you make a mistake, except in tangible actions like touching a hot stove burner or doubting your spouse’s decisions. Most mistakes require reflection in order to learn from them.
Yes, mistakes should be learning experiences … but before they can be vehicles for our learning, we might just need to recognize them for what they truly are … an “oops”.
“Experience is that marvelous thing which allows us to recognize a mistake when we make it again.”
~ stated exquisitely well by Franklin P. Jones
Another unfortunate reality of life is that many of us continue to make mistakes …
It would be nice if we were able to perfectly learn from past mistakes and perfectly adjust our future behavior, but my experience has been that learning from our mistakes is an incremental process, rather than a discrete and complete change.
How often have you found yourself “screwing up” and later recognizing that the current mistake has some similarity to an earlier mistake or that the same drivers which resulted in past mistakes are still operating. I know better now than to just pay the minimum on my credit card bill, but I still charge impulse items … both are financial errors and both are related to my lack of ability to defer gratification, but in one case, I prevail, while in another, I sink like a rock.
”Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
~ astutely noted by Scott Adams
This last observation about making mistakes get to the heart of both learning and creativity.
We need to make mistakes. As someone has noted, if we are not making mistakes, we are not doing anything. Based on this measure, I and many of you are very, very productive.
Making mistakes, as noted earlier, is human. Thinking is also human.
As we reflect on our mistakes, we are making decisions, whether we consciously realize it or not. We are deciding what to keep, what to give up, and what to change.
Sometimes we decide to keep doing something a certain way, because something within us is not ready to change or ditch that behavior. We sometimes engage in repeated behavior that results in poor or negative outcomes, yet we continue to engage in it. Maybe because we are afraid of changing, or because we cannot visualize doing it differently.
Reflection on our experiences helps us name and question those things which hinder our ability to learn and move on.
Allowing your mistakes to hold you back from growth, learning, and progress, is the ultimate mistake.
Reflecting that I make so many mistakes I’ll probably be a genius someday in the Heartland ….