While reading the newspaper one day, Rudyard Kipling came across a curious announcement. He wrote a letter to the paper’s editor: “I’ve just read that I am dead. Don’t forget to delete me from your list of subscribers.”
Kipling could joke about such a big mistake. But most of us are not so tolerant. In fact, we usually view mistakes rather disapprovingly. Yet mistakes need not always be “bad”. A colleague once said to me: “Everyone makes mistakes. Some are good mistakes, some are bad.” She said it rather innocently, but what she said was profound.
Often, what we think of as mistakes turn out to be favourable to us. No, it does not happen with purpose or design. In fact, a mistake is always labelled as one only in hindsight. Warren Buffet, one of the world’s greatest stock market investors and also a philanthropist, once said, “In the business world, the rear view mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” We can safely extend his observation to the other departments of our life too.
I like the expression “good mistake”. A good mistake is one that we make in our ignorance [or arrogance] and then, when we realise it didn’t serve us, we tag it as a mistake. Yet, with time we realise that it was not a mistake at all. Better still, it was a good mistake. Because in the long-term, the perspective changes and we begin to accept that whatever happened was for the best.
No one starts doing anything with an intention to make a mistake. Mistakes just happen. The choices we make, the decisions we take are subject to a myriad of forces outside our control, many of them unpredictable. From that perspective, mistakes are indispensable to success in life. The only way to avoid them is to do nothing – and that is a BIG mistake.
Lloyd Jones said, “The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try nothing and succeed.” Inaction and indecisiveness is the cornerstone of a dull, boring, uninteresting life. When we are afraid of “mistakes” and avoid making them, we are turning away joy, excitement and a richer life.
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