The Wisdom of Making Mistakes

“Resilience begins with failure.”  This is not a mindset we generally choose to cultivate but it has a truth of its own.  When you think about it, a lot of our growth comes from having made mistakes.


Great inventions were realized after mistakes.  There is growing evidence to suggest that innovation flourishes when people are given the space to make mistakes.

Way back and many decades ago, I was an undirected, confused, insecure young woman.  I entered San Diego State University and didn’t know what I wanted or was interested in.  Yes, it was a recipe for failure, and I did.  I flunked out of college.

Flash forward.  When my three daughters were ten months old, two, and three, I decided to go back to school.  I was deeply sorry I had not finished college, embarrassed I had flunked out, and very determined to complete a degree.  Slowly, one class at a time, I earned an undergraduate degree and later a master’s degree.  The fire in my belly was lit by failure.  During my time in school, I figured out what I felt passionate about, what I wanted, and how I could be useful to others.  I have been doing just that for over three decades.

I don’t know about your life, but mine has never traveled in a straight line.  It zigzags, detours, and doubles back. Many things I have to learn over and over again.

Here are just a few of the lessons we can learn from mistakes:

  1. We learn the lesson of humility. We aren’t perfect and neither is anyone else.  We learn to be compassionate to ourselves and others.
  2. We learn the lesson of change. Much of who we think we are can get swept away when confronted with our own mistakes.
  3. We learn the lesson of authenticity. We can be more real and authentic accepting that we have limits as well as assets.
  4. We learn the lesson of surrender. Surrender happens when our usual ways of controlling life no longer work, and it is too exhausting to attempt to persist in trying to control the uncontrollable.

Not making mistakes is not a measure of success.  Success is acknowledging our humanness. No matter how many times we fall off the bike, we can brush ourselves off, get back on, do our best and anticipate we will zigzag, double back, and have to learn some things again and again.

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