The Mistake of Monopolizing Mistake-Making


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“Let him make his own mistakes; that’s the only way he will learn.”

This trite cultural norm of monopolizing mistake-making is accepted as the gold standard of learning. We senselessly encourage each other to make as many mistakes as possible – and while this advice is well-intentioned, it is sadly misinformed.

Imagine trekking down a hill, on a splendid hike with your friends. If Jenny, who is two steps ahead of you, trips over a branch, you instinctively pay closer attention in hopes of averting that danger. In the same way, when we see someone else make a mistake that leads to an undesirable outcome, be it financial or personal, we must jot it down, keep it in the back of our minds, remembering to avoid making that same mistake.

No one would refute this example; but somehow, when it comes to personal matters, we become oddly territorial over our mistakes; we become adamant about making our own. 

Yet it is inconceivable just how much farther we could go on our life’s ‘hike’, if we stop and take note of the places others have slipped and fallen. What is glorious about every individual repeating mistakes they needn’t make? We should strive to go farther than our predecessors – and learning from their mishaps is the most potent catalyst to reach that end.

An important caveat to note, is that when it comes to venturing down a new path, or exploring new horizons, well, mistakes are typically part of the package. It is not that mistakes should be specially sought-out; but rather, that the fear of making them should not paralyze us on our quest into the unknown. 

Learning from the mistakes of others will afford us a smoother sail on our journeys, and accepting the experience of another is not a sign of weakness or compliance, but of wisdom. 




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