The Wealth of Mistakes

July 31, 2011

One of my favorite people and a very wise mentor (though he likely didn’t see himself that way) was fond of saying when I would acknowledge a particularly brilliant remark that he had ‘a wealth of stupid mistakes from which to draw great wisdom.’ Despite the self-deprecating element, the comment itself was very typical in its humor and pith while still elucidating a principle.

He speaks for all of us: we have all made mistakes; some are particularly stupid. Yet, sometimes it takes an escalation in stupidity to show us the right path: increased contrast; increased vividness and clarity. I find it particularly heartening to think that it is possible to glean a great harvest of wisdom from missteps and mishaps, even those perpetrated by others.

The key to this is simple: the ability to see the better path, which usually begins with the humility to admit what wasn’t working. Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1)