Skip navigation

I recall a conversation with a teacher in the midst of my second year of university, where he sought to assure me that a mistake I made in class would not live long in the memory of others and I should not diminish my participation in class because of it. I recall it because of my reaction, which to him was surprising: why should I be ashamed of making a mistake?
If the response is perhaps not as clear as I perceive it to be, I shall elaborate. My reaction has always been that the sum of information in the world far exceeds my minute ability to assimilate knowledge. I can only know so much within the boundaries of time and human capacity. It follows that in certain aspects of my life I will make mistakes, perhaps on an ongoing and continuing basis, all the while unaware that I commit such egregious errors. At the very least things will be done in a sub-optimal manner.

My reaction, this unashamed commitment to making mistakes, is grounded in the realisation that the truism “nothing ventured, nothing gained” is absolutely true. In class a false statement is a beginning from which a teacher can correct, in life a mistake is a position from which someone else can begin to correct the position you find yourself in. You learn more from your mistakes, your efforts and your own false starts then you can ever learn from doing the perfect thing every time. You may not even understand why what you’re doing is right, if you haven’t done it wrong several times before.

What I find worse then error is indecision. The timidity of inaction, the paralysis of choice that is true damage, because without being committed nothing can be done to either solve the problem constructively or realise that you have a non-functional solution.

Perhaps what it boils down to is that I have little tolerance for wasted time, and time spent prevaricating on solutions, when the options have been considered, and weighed, where there is what the erudite Professor Raz calls an exclusionary reason for action – when you know what you ought to do – time spent in rationalisation and re-evaluation of an issue does not endear itself to me. Action has to be through, clearly thought out and then committed.

If you make a mistake, you wait for a proper point to asses your decision in the light of the new information that you have, and then you start again. Mistakes are part of life, and living is what we have to get on with.


One Comment

    • Dom
    • Posted November 21, 2006 at 9:25 pm
    • Permalink

    You know that’s a very good point. More often than not you learn more by making a mistake because you then have to figure out why the mistake occurred. Therefore mistakes should be encouraged in an education system not penalised. Yes I’m talking about the exams…wait till mine is over I’ll blog about that.

Comments are closed.