A mistake is an action by us, that gets either other people or us into some sort of trouble. Mistakes can be careless or accidental, gigantic like losing one’s life savings in an investment or tiny like spilling juice over a school essay. One thing is for certain though: mistakes are always opportunities for learning, provided we tackle them with that perspective. Making mistakes helps you to realize what you did wrong in the situation that you were in, what you learnt from it and how to react to such situations in the future. We can’t always control the situations or circumstances that we find ourselves in, but the choice of how we will respond to these situations, is always ours to make. We keep improving our response skills by learning from previous experiences that went wrong.If you don’t make mistakes early on in life and do everything perfectly, which is virtually impossible anyway, you will eventually pay the price for it later on. This is because you don’t know how to avoid making the mistake that you didn’t make when the stakes weren’t very high. This doesn’t mean that we should keep trying to make mistakes. When we do though, we should not be afraid to keep our heads held high and carry on. We shouldn’t forget what we erred in but should not have it continuously preying on our minds either, keeping us so preoccupied that we can’t get on productively with our lives. Steve Jobs said, “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” Steve Jobs himself must have made a few mistakes while working on his Apple computers but he simply understood what went wrong and carried on improving his innovations. This is why Apple is where it is today, not only because Steve Jobs was brilliant but also because he was not afraid to take risks and sometimes make mistakes and learn from them.
However, it is not at all easy to learn from our mistakes. Some conditions need to be met for us to be able to actually become wiser after the mistake. If these conditions are not met, we are quite likely to learn nothing and remain just as ignorant as we were before the mistake was made.
Firstly, it is important to keep a positive mindset and be open to discussing what you did wrong, with someone whom you trust and whom you know has your best interests at heart. Being open-minded is a great way to begin to understand your mistakes.
Secondly, you must also think about the alternative that you could have pursued. Then you can remind yourself to follow this alternative correct course of action when you next run into a similar problem. This is vital if you want to learn from your mistakes because otherwise, you might repeat the same one next time. Sometimes thinking of an alternative can be quite hard, so that would also be an ideal time for you to talk to someone else who can help you. This could be someone who has gone through a similar experience before you and has his or her learning to share with you.
Thirdly, if others were affected by the mistake you made, it would be best to apologize to them and tell them that you will never repeat the error. If they do not accept your apology, you have to try extra hard to convince them to forgive you or wait for the whole issue to blow over. Bruce Lee said, “Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.” When one person has the courage to ask for forgiveness and when the other person has the even greater courage to forgive, both people can grow from the experience.
Lastly, making mistakes can sometimes be very hard to forget particularly when it has a big impact on our lives. We must realize that we are all human; all of us make mistakes, so we aren’t the only ones in deep waters. It is also good to remember that no matter how terrible you think your life is because of the mistake you made, there will always be people even worse off than you and they would give anything to be in your shoes. So it’s helpful to remind ourselves how fortunate we are.
So many great people in history have learnt from their mistakes. For example, Thomas Edison did not make the light bulb overnight. He spent months developing that idea of his, using platinum and other metal filaments until he found a special type of carbon filament that kept a light bulb working for 13.5 hours. Edison persevered for months (despite making mistakes) and look where that got him! His famous quote – “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” makes complete sense because it shows how hard he worked to make something that is so integral to our lives today.
Edison was also very confident, and this helps when you make mistakes. Confidence helps you treat mistakes as just part of the ride towards success. His quote: “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles,” shows this. This quote radiated confidence when he spoke it, because back in that time, it would have seemed impossible to make something new so cheap in such a short span of time! Not to Edison, though!
Many sportsmen have learnt from their mistakes. For example, Brett Lee is an Australian cricket bowler. He reaches top speeds of 160 km an hour, on his good days. At the start of his career, Brett Lee was young and quick. He just thundered in and bowled the ball as quick as possible. He made a big mistake by doing this, because often the ball just went flying and the batsmen could just tap it and it would rocket away. However, later in his career, Brett matured and slowed down his pace. He added swing to the ball, which makes it turn one way after hitting the ground. Brett learnt from his mistake because he tried to change his action and succeeded, getting many wickets this way.
I am not an Edison or a Brett Lee, but I think I have learnt from my mistakes very well. For example, I have been playing chess for a long time and I am a rated chess player in Singapore. When I first started playing in tournaments, I made mistakes in my moves. But I kept a record of every game I played, analyzed all my mistakes and learnt from them. I still carried on training hard and playing the tournaments, because I wanted to challenge myself and work hard towards success. If I had been scared to continue playing the tournaments when I made those mistakes, I would have given up on something that is a key part of my life now and one I am very successful in. In fact chess is a game in which you simply cannot learn and progress unless you make mistakes. I am quite sure that even Gary Kasparov and Vishwanathan Anand would not have reached the top rung of the chess ladder without erring along the way. Fall one rung down and tread two rungs up, is a good way to move towards success.
So do I believe then, that we can and should make every possible mistake so that we can learn from them? Not really. It’s good for us to learn together from the mistakes of the past and for us to have a system of rules to live by, so that we don’t make mistakes that are too dangerous for us or that unnecessarily cause others a lot of pain. It’s also good for children like us to grow with some well structured rules in our lives which help us to understand clearly what is allowed and what is not, so that we can avoid making very costly mistakes which will have a permanent effect on our lives.
In conclusion, I believe that you can learn valuable lessons from mistakes you make, but only if you have a very positive mindset and recognize your mistake right off the bat. As we go through our lives, we will all have experiences, both good and bad. Nobody can have a really perfect life and often we learn more from the bad experiences than the good.
George Bernard Shaw said, “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
Don’t you agree?