If you don’t learn from your mistakes, there’s no sense making them. – Laurence J. Peter (also seen as Anonymous)
What does that mean?
This is another humorous quote, but again, it has a serious point hidden within. The quote is by the author of the book The Peter Principle which is an interesting description of failing your way to the top.
What is the point of the quote? It asks what are mistakes, if not opportunities to learn. And, as the quote continues, if you aren’t going to learn from them, what is the point in making them in the first place. I think I detect a little sarcasm, don’t you?
You probably would be much better off not making mistakes if you aren’t going to learn from them, right? But what does *that* imply? How ‘safe’ would your life have to be, to never make another mistake? Would that really be much of a life?
I don’t believe the quote is telling you to hide under your bed and avoid taking any chance of making a mistake. Instead, I believe it is attempting to point out that you will make mistakes, and the best course of action is to learn from them.
Why is learning from your mistakes important?
Let’s ask that from the opposite point of view, “What happens if you don’t learn from your mistakes?” You keep doing the same thing over and over again. And the same attempts will generate the same results, which some people use as the definition of insanity.
Behaving in that manner certainly doesn’t make much sense to me. Does it make any sense to you? I would hope not. Instead, I hope you agree with me that learning from the mistakes seems a more prudent path to take. After all, that’s what the quote is getting at, right?
Where can I apply this in my life?
As an example of making mistakes, and learning from them, I present my blog. In the first few months, I did nearly everything wrong, except posting regularly. Other than a few days off in the first month or two, it’s been a blog post every day.
I didn’t have proper formatting at first. I had to work at how the sections would flow together. I didn’t use proper headers, which limited the ability of search engines to find my pages. I didn’t use pictures. I didn’t take advantage of embedded links for sources, biographies, and other useful information.
I’ve gone back and fixed the worst of the mistakes, but there are still quite a few of them from the first six months or so which are in need of some form of updating. But I went forward, even though I knew I’d be making mistakes, and have tried to learn from them as best I could.
So how do you learn from your mistakes? The first thing you need to know is what you expect as a result of a successful attempt. Then, after you make your attempt, you can compare what you actually got with what you were expecting to get. If it wasn’t exactly what you expected, you have a ‘mistake’ from which you can learn, right?
Once you know how much you missed by, and in what manner or direction, it’s time to consider how to adjust things so you can get a result that is closer to your desired result. Then all that is left is to try it out and see how you did this time. Repeat until you win, or get close enough to your desired result.
What have you been doing where you’ve been making mistakes, but been unable to get ‘over the hump’ and start making progress? Think about the different areas of your life, be it work, family, social, etc, and try to come up with a few to work with.
Take each and consider the basic process I outlined above. What did you expect to get if it worked well, and what did you actually get? How far off was your attempt, and in what manner or direction was the error? How can you adjust your actions so that your next attempt might yield a better result?
Pick one of them and actually write down each of those steps. Try to come up with several adjustments to try, and sort them in the order you think is most likely to work. Next time you get the chance, try your new method, and repeat the sequence all over again.
We all make mistakes. The only question is if you are going to learn from them, or simply repeat them again and again. You know what the quote’s author would do.