Is This Post a Mistake?

“He who makes no mistakes makes no progress.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Recent post The Hardest Thing posed the dilemma of crossing bridges or burning them, and the difficulty of choosing. In reply to a number of thoughtful comments and questions, I promised a possible way out, escaping between the horns of the dilemma to move on into the future.

You see, I agree with T.R. about mistakes and progress; and it occurs to me that asking the question, What mistake did you make today? is tantamount to asking, What did you learn today? A very different way from the usual of evaluating action, it seems to me.

So —-

Does this help or not? What is your notion of a mistake? Of progress? What are your expectations of yourself? (If no one else finds this conjunction of ideas provocative, I will have learned something myself! But I hope some of you will. )

This entry was posted in Challenge, Etcetera, Failure, Quotes, Wisdom and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Is This Post a Mistake?

  1. Gemma says:

    I agree. Making mistakes can certainly produce Ah Ha! moments. And asking “What did I learn today?” and using that new knowledge can lead you down a more enlightened path, but you don’t always notice that you’ve made a mistake. And, though people like to talk among themselves about the mistakes others have made, they are not always willing to bring it to the attention of the Mistakee, so to speak 🙂 So there you go. Mistake, people talking, and no lesson learned. Sad. Maybe it doesn’t happen often. Maybe you’re not perceptive enough to see the err of your ways. Hopefully, you’ve got some (one?) good honest friends. And maybe you read posts that remind you to pay close attention to yourself on a daily basis, be honest with yourself, and take a minute to evaluate your day (and the expression on people’s faces when you speak or do). Thank you for the reminder. Sometimes I feel like I need a sticky note on my forehead.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Oh, Gemma! If you need a sticky note, I’m sure you also need a gold star on your forehead.
      Someone with your lively sense of humor has a great weapon in the ongoing battle of life. I mean, all of us are sometimes (often?) Mistakees, blind or not.
      That is one of the best coinages I’ve ever seen. 😆
      (Speaking from personal experience, when I became able and willing to forgive myself my mistakes, I became much more able and willing to SEE them. First steps along a more enlightened path for me, at least.)


  2. Rebekah says:

    I find it comforting. If I didn’t, I would sink into some deep, dark hole.

    The title of this post is something I ask myself …. very often.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      I’m pretty sure that it keeps us both honest — and not just inhibited.
      I certainly hope so!
      Onward, Rebekah. I tell you what I tell myself every day.
      (Lots of times, you give me courage in this blogosphere of ours.)


  3. pauline says:

    I like the way you always make me think.

    There are so many levels of mistakes, from ooopsies to OMGs, and realizing you’ve made a mistake can make you feel all sorts of ways from merely embarrassed to horribly sorry. Given that mistakes are part of the learning process, I’d say one ought to cut oneself (and others) some slack when contemplating them. I’ve made some doosies. I can’t undo them but I can examine the outcomes (ain’t hindsight grand?) and consider alternate paths for the future. Mistakes can be opportunities for learning – what’s that old saw? – “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.”


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Well, I’d reckon that’s quite a mouthful of good sense in one middling size paragraph.
      Nothing to add — except to remember your comment next time I make a biggish mistake (tomorrow? next week?) and begin to hang on to it, instead of cutting it loose to examine and see what I’ve learned.


  4. Mercy says:

    Another good post Judy!!
    It reminds me of the recent Sarah Blake (name right? one of the new, few, women billionaires on the latest Forbes list? ) comment about what, according to her, accounted for her success – apparently growing up, her father used to gather her and her siblings at the dinner table asking each one what they had failed at that day – seemed a bit severe to me, kind of a downer topic to go with with a child, and day after day? but that’s not what it did to Sarah and her siblings; first it looked like it took the sting out of the very word ‘failure’ (which in our culture means something to be avoided at all cost, and to be spun away as evidence of how great things are!), and then of course it made the kids think about whether it was work intensity, change of tactic, or change of goal that was required of them; what they failed at revealed where they were in their growth or something like that.

    Similarly I remember my husband too telling our kids at one time or another that there really never used to be a ‘failed’ experiment when he was a lab scientist – you always learnt something – chemical x which you thought in your wisdom killed a tumor, did completely the opposite with the tumor cells you had on hand – a win-win situation always… and then of course there are those famous accidents we all know so well – the penicillin and nylon and similar discoveries…

    I wish, though, I could say I was as open to this peculiar method of learning; with my true catholic upbringing, the daily examination of conscience and its, never distant, associated guilt, I was ALWAYS on intimate terms with my mistakes… too much intimacy I would say! The problem was I remembered the regret and repentance half of it and literally wallowed in it, but invariably forgot about the atonement, about moving on, about the ‘learning from the mistake’ part. I have gotten better. But along with that has come the realization that learning from mistakes requires a kind of detachment, a laid-back attitude where you’re not so invested in the outcome of your life-experiments that you become biased and lose receptiveness, some humility, some nonchalance, an acceptance that some of the things you try can fail whether because you knew too little about yourself, or about the facts or about the circumstances all of which, to make it worse, are dynamic. Perfectionism and ego all bound up in the mistake, you can’t believe YOU of all people, oh my!, have made, is what stands in the way of your learning.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Wow! A brilliant mini-essay on the subject, covering so many aspects of a complex phenomenon.
      You know, Mercy, I was about ready to yank the post and say, Okay, this post WAS a mistake. But Frank kept saying, No, it’s the kind of subject that needs time to think about. Let it stay out there while people are thinking.
      Mistake on my part, he was absolutely right on target!
      Love to you, wise lady.


  5. M says:

    Thank you Judy – it was you who provided the prompt via one of your always interesting posts! And looks like Frank is the wise one here,
    Hope all is well on the r&r front.
    Love to you both!


  6. Stef says:

    I think a mistake made once is a learning opportunity; the same mistake made again is foolish at best, tragic at worst.


  7. suitablefish says:

    Zen Master Dogen said when asked that his life had been one big mistake. I like thinking on that. I think there are no mistakes, only an opportunity to learn. Two very thoughtful posts. Thank you.


  8. How BORING would it be if we all went about doing everything right all the time! Mistakes shake things up, don’t they? Trip us up, make us fall down and sit and think about how we could have done better or approached that in a different manner.


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