“You won’t learn anything from your successes.” I’ve lately come to think that there’s something quite brilliant about this statement. Apart from being simple, it points to a truth that doesn’t usually occupy our thoughts: that we learn from our mistakes.
Think about your successes. The joy of learning to read, the excitement of graduating from school, that unforgettable moment when you got that job or promotion. Think of the joy and pride that you experienced when a project you worked on wholeheartedly was held in high esteem. All of these emotions are, no doubt, beautiful. Our successes are wonderful turning points that not only nurture our courage to do and create, but also act as signs that we are on the right path. However, it can be argued whether our successes can really teach us something. Doesn’t the phenomenon of losing mental preoccupation through understanding and achievement mean that learning only takes place when our neurons are actively trying to solve something?
Our biggest fear (which societal psychology urges us all to avoid) is, in fact, mistakes: not being able to achieve something quickly, exemplify our intelligence, and catch up to others or surpass them, as well as wasting patience, falling into the position of an imposter, and being utterly disgraced…We often forget the endless lessons we’ve learned from falling and getting back up, erring, and taking the road less traveled.
So learning is a tedious process. It’s rarely quick or easy. It’s arduous, troublesome, and robs us of our sleep. It’s not as easy and automatic as pressing a button, starting a new page, or deleting someone from our phone’s address book. Even though a lot of life’s facets have been integrated into the world of technology, the process of learning is still in the Stone Age: we try, we make a mistake, we see our mistake and give it meaning, and through this, we create a new mental connection and learn.
Of course not all mistakes have the same consequences. But every mistake carries its own lesson. Are we open to learning?