Mistakes are opportunities to learn

By Ram Capoor. Ram, 11, studies at the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) in Singapore. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

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?

68 comments on “Mistakes are opportunities to learn

  1. Caelinn on

    This is a super article and is very interesting. Before, I knew that we should learn from mistakes but I never knew all that could happen.
    Great Article!

  2. Kabir Pamnani on

    Nice one Ram. This piece of writing was excellent because of the great language and quotes that you used throughout the entire piece. I totally agree with you that it is ok to make mistakes because without mistakes, how do we improve.

    Overall, this was a brilliant piece of writing and I hope you get a lot of votes.
    Great job,


  3. Prem Behari Capoor on

    Dear Ram,
    Your article on learning from mistakes is incredible and perusing it filled my heart with pride.The choice of the subject,elucidation of the theme and the validation with examples of great achievers from Edison to Steve Jobs,lent both depth and character to your article.Congratulations.Keep expressing yourself.Take care.Love Dada.

  4. Chitra Capoor on

    Dearest Ram,
    I have just now read your beautiful article and am very happy indeed on your excellent composition and thoughtful conclusions.Keep writing and sharing each article with us.Keep up with all your activities and take care.Love Dadi

  5. Sean. Le Mesurier on

    Great job Ram! I really liked all the good language and and the deep meanings. I have learned a lot and it was very interesting. Great job hope you win!!

  6. Declan on

    This was a very well written article. It was very descriptive and I especially liked the “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

  7. Vihan Chandiramani on

    This is a VERY detailed article and just from reading this article I can see that a lot of research must have gone into it. This article can just reassure people that mistakes ARE opportunities to learn. I would have thought that this would be written by an adult because of the way that the article explains everything in detail.
    GREAT JOB!!!!!!!!

  8. Sam on

    This is a very wise blog that is extremely well worded and well written. Many adults would struggle to create such a good write up including so many quotes and great words.

    Good Job!

  9. Pia ghose on

    My gosh, Ram…. A very well written article with a lot of insight. I too believe that making mistakes make one wiser. Imagine how boring life would be if we were always doing things right:) Well done.
    Pia aunty

  10. Ansh Prasad on

    This is an amazing article, Ram. I love how insightful it is, and all the quotes you use throughout. You provide a completely different viewpoint on mistakes. At the start, I still thought mistakes were things to be avoided. At the end, I was totally convinced that mistakes were opportunities to learn.
    Keep on writing, Ram!
    Your friend,

  11. Liam Tierney on

    Hi Ram. This article is really well done. If I had read this I would not have thought that an 11 year old boy wrote it. All the ideas in the article can be applied to real life.

    Well done Ram!

  12. Declan on

    Hi, you did a very good job on this article. Now I know that when you make a mistake it is a great time to learn something new. I think that the part “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” is a great quote because it shows that working hard will give you a better than great result.
    Thanks for sharing and thanks for being a good and cool friend.
    Very well done,

  13. Varun Shetty on

    Super article Ram… i agree with you… after all i keep telling my mom – “to err is human – to forgive divine”… and she is slowly buying into this logic… All the best

  14. Kapil Kapoor on

    Hi Ram, well done! I just read It. Really nice way to start the day, Made me pause and reflect for a bit. Absolutely brilliant, keep at it.
    I have printed a copy for Krish. All the very best. Happy Diwali !

  15. Andrea McDonald on

    Ram, I thought the article spoke to your maturity and stretched my thinking in considering my own mistakes. You lent weight to your argument through effective research and well-placed quotes. it”s wonderful to see you sharing your author”s voice and taking risks in your writing. Very impressed and very proud!! Miss Andrea

  16. Kavish Pal Singh Wadhwa on

    Dear Ram,

    I thought this article was very well written and I learnt many things from this article. An amazing article and all the best!

  17. Adarsh on

    The essay has been structured beautifully. A very coherent and eloquent essay. Putting a lot of effort and thought into an essay is one thing; Mirroring this through the essay written is another. After reading this essay, one can certainly realize the sheer amount of effort and thought that has gone into it. Great stuff Mr. Ram!

  18. Ambuj Jain on

    Ram shows comprehension and expression way beyond his years. A delight to read the article. If somebody claims he never made a mistake it means he did not do much in life.Writing is Ram’s forte, I will look forward to more.

  19. Sandra El-Imad on

    A very thoughtful and insightful piece. It is obvious you have done the research and your conclusions are mature and balanced. Well done and good luck with your future =))

  20. Archana Velukutty on

    Fantastic read Ram. I agree with Mr Shaw – “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
    Wish you all the best & very well written.

  21. Radhi Dhall on

    Dear Ram,
    This is a wonderful piece of writing and I am very proud of you. It is very well structured and has strong examples to support your point of view including personal ones. But what makes it truly exceptional is how enlightened it is. It is a tremendously freeing thought – to be able to face our mistakes as another step in our learning and the path to truth. I especially liked the part about “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.” Well done! With lots of love, Radhi Aunty

  22. Ned El-Imad on

    This is a very wise and insightful piece and shows an understanding of life. It is an excellent piece and my compliments go to the writer.

  23. Sanjana Kohli on

    Ram, I have read this article not once, but twice ! The first time I read it, I enjoyed it throughly and then the second time, I enjoyed it even more because this time I got a deeper insight into the topic by mulling over all that you’ve said including the real life examples you’ve included to substantiate your point. I must confess that it’s hard to admit one’s mistakes, but you are right, if we follow the the route you’ve suggested – especially the part about keeping an open mind and evaluating alternatives – then there’s an immense amount of learning that can happen.
    This is a very mature piece of writing and could easily be mistaken as the work of a 15 year old. I’m very impressed and so very proud of you ! Keep up your writing – it will hold you in good stead throughout your life. Well done Ram !

  24. Caroline Takla on

    Dear Ram,
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. I learned a great deal from this blog. I thought you really dug deep into the topic and avoided any obvious cliche’s associated with this topic. Thank you for picking a topic that is relevant to every single human being on this planet. I am going to recommend that my whole team reads this blog tomorrow so that they may too benefit.
    Really well done!
    Caroline (a friend of Pankaj and Ned)

  25. Ruma Menon on

    My Dearest Ram,

    Your article shows very clear thinking and articulation. I am extremely proud of your writing – and the maturity of your thought process.
    My favourite part of the article is when you say that nobody has a perfect life and we learn more from the bad experiences than the good ones. I love the spiritual aspects of the article too.
    please keep writing many more articles and may you keep shining
    lots of love
    Ruma Mashi

  26. Sandeepa Rath on

    Dearest Ram,
    A real writer is one who cares about what he writes, what it means and how he says it.
    You have used words without any fear and prejudice, which means you have spoken with your heart. As a young writer your thoughts are clear and you have conveyed them with conviction.
    Every thing has a beginning and I encourage you to nurture your talent of writing and hone this skill further.
    Lots of love, Sandeepa Aunty

  27. Rhea Bhandari on

    Your article is very interesting and inspiring. It clearly explains that having a positive attitude towards mistakes helps you improve as a person. I love your use of quotes and descriptions. They were very persuasive. Well done!!! 🙂
    Rhea Bhandari G6 UWCSEA

  28. Madan Menon on

    My dear Ram
    The maturity of your writing belies your age. What I read this morning, were valuable lessons for all of us expressed through the unblemished eyes of a young man. I can’t help but reflect at the power of your words – the composition of your essay on my own life and the lessons I can learn from your lessons to me. To stitch and compose the essay in the way you have speaks volumes of the values that you carry and imbibe in your life. And it’s great to see. You do us all proud in so many ways and this thought provoking essay is yet another example of why I agree ( and know ) that you do and always will make a difference to the world.

    Warm regards

  29. Samantha Tea on

    Bravo Ram! I really enjoyed reading your piece and love the quotes you chosen. You are a very wise young man:)
    Keep us posted with more articles

  30. Tulika Kapoor on

    Ram, congratulations, well done. Such a wonderful piece of writing. We are so proud of you and your ability to reflect and articulate so beautifully at such a young age. Keep it up and keep writing.
    Tulika bua

  31. Sumeet Kapur on

    Great Article Ram!

    Timeless wisdom thought provokingly analysed and succinctly articulated.

    I hope this will inspire you to never fear making a mistake and count its cost as a small price to pay for the learning. God bless and wishing you a wonderful life ahead.

  32. Ajit Kumar Mehrotra on

    Dear Ram,
    I read your thought provoking & inspiring article today.Congrats.It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has the courage to admit & learn from mistakes and individuality enough to stand by own convictions.Gandhiji’s life is another good example. Best wishes & love to all of you.
    Ajit Mehrotra,Kanpur,India(elder cousin of ur father.28.11.12

  33. mridula seth on

    Dear Ram, the article is absolutely wonderful, very comprehensive…..awesome…!!!!Weare really happy that you write so well and choose your words that fit perfectly ,well done keep it up ,.we are proud of you !with love, Mridula nani.

  34. Amar Behari Seth on

    Dearest Ram,
    It is a very lucid and thought provoking article on learning from ones mistakes.The quotes given are very apt and show the hard work you have put in,,for your research.Congratulations for the excellent writing.Well done,keep it up .with lots of love,Amar nana.

  35. Zoe on

    So true 🙂
    This article is amazing and very mind-opening. It’s well written (Still surprised an 11 year old did this) and I’m sure this could help in many people’s lives if they knew about this.

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