Mistakes Essay

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Is it true that we can learn from our mistakes?

Can we learn from failure?
It seems to have become a platitude, an accepted belief, maybe even a mantra, that we can learn from our mistakes or that failure teaches us a lesson. Almost every ‘guru’, every teacher and every self help book will tell you that you can learn from mistakes. Everyone seems to accept this, eveyone seems to believe it but is it true?

If you make a mistake, what have you learned? At best, what you have learned is that whatever you did or whatever answer you arrived at was not correct. However, does this automatically mean that you now know the correct answer? Have you learned from that mistake?

Where a problem involves just two possibly answers (say, A or B) then selecting the wrong answer (A) would show you that answer B was correct. In this case, yes, you could learn from that mistake.

In real life, however, problems rarely boil down to just two options. There are usually far more possibilities to choose and far more nuances or ’shades of grey’ to consider. So in real life where things are rarely just ’yes’ or ‘no’ solutions, selecting the wrong answer does not show you the correct answer.

In real life, when you make a mistake, the option you chose may have been a mistake on that occassion but that does not mean it would be a mistake on another occassion. So in real life, making a mistake on one instance, does not tell you that the choice will be wrong on another occassion. So you cannot learn unequivocably that your answer is wrong.

The bottom line is that finding the wrong answer is not learning. If you find a wrong answer, you have still not found the correct answer. Learning is finding the correct answer. Finding wrong answers or making mistakes may   at best be thought of as part of a process of discovery.

What, though, are the effects of making a mistake or of failing? Does being told you are wrong or does the experience of failure encourage a person to keep on...

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