Do you agree that we can learn from the mistakes of other or do we have to learn from our own experiences?
March 12, 2018
When I give my students an in-class writing assignment, I write the assignment with them in class; I am subjected to the same constraints as they are, except that I type (the advantage of which should not be understated.) I'll post some of what I write here, not to show how an essay should be written (i.e. model essay) but as a way to subject myself to the same kind of scrutiny as they experience. I write decently (IMHO) but I make the same mistakes of not being informed about what I write about, not having a clear enough structure to an argument, having nothing to say (and subsequently having to make stuff up...)
Everybody makes mistakes. Whether we learn from our mistakes would determine whether or not we become better people. We can either learn from the mistakes of others or we can learn from making our own mistakes; regardless what is important is not where we learn from but whether we learn at all. I believe that we can learn from the mistakes that we make just as we can learn from the mistakes of others.
The difference between learning from our own experience versus learning from the mistakes of others lies in the emotional engagement we have with our mistakes. When we make our own mistakes, we not only learn from the mistake that we make but from dealing with the feeling of making that mistake. If I were to make a mistake in my mathematics examination, for example, and as a result I receive a poor grade, I have to deal with the feeling of disappointment while learning how to execute that mathematical question accurately. Conversely, such a feeling of disappointment would not exist if my learning was a result of someone else’s mistake. Learning to deal with our emotions (associated with making a mistake), be it anxiety, anguish or fear, is often as important, if not more, than the lesson that we learn from the mistake itself.
Learning from our own mistake also encourages a sense of ownership for our own actions. Part of the learning can only happen if we first acknowledge that we have made a mistake and from them, being humbled enough to learn to do better. If I stole something from a shop, in order to learn from my mistake, it would require me to first acknowledge the mistake and then work towards not stealing again. Often the acknowledgement of the mistake is the hardest part. Such a step is absent when we observe the mistake of others.
There are instances where learning from the mistake of others is probably better than making the mistake ourselves. These scenarios involve the consequences of the mistake made to the individual. We can read about the mistakes that people make from investing all their money in a particular stock, for example, and we learn not to do that and diversify our investments. In such a scenario, we would show wisdom by learning from the mistake of others and not being foolish enough to make the mistakes for ourselves.
We can learn from both the mistakes we make and those made by others; how we learn is not as important as whether we learn. Regardless of how we learn, we need to keep an open mind towards the possibility of learning and self-betterment.