THINK OF THESE: Learning from mistakes

American inventor and businessman Thomas Alva Edison held a world record of 1093 patents for inventions.   Perhaps, greates t challenge was the development of a practical incandescent, electric light. Contrary to popular belief, he didn’t “invent” the lightbulb but rather he improved upon a 50-year-old idea.

In 1879, using lower current electricity, a small carbonized filament, and an improved vacuum inside the globe, he was able to produce a reliable, long-lasting source of light. The idea of electric lighting was not new, and a number of people had worked on, and even developed forms of electric lighting.  But up to that time, nothing had been developed that was remotely practical for home use.

After experimenting more than 200 different substances, a colleague told him: “You have failed more than 200 times; why don’t you give up?”  Edison replied, “Not at all.  I have discovered more than 200 things that will not work.  I will soon find one that will.”

After one and a half years of work, success was achieved when an incandescent lamp with a filament of carbonized sewing thread burned for thirteen and a half hours.  “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes,” commented British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

“We gain wisdom from failure much more than from success.  We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery,” said Scottish author Samuel Smiles.

We must never overlook the untold benefits that can be derived from mistakes.  A person should never hesitate to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday, because of his mistake.

You probably have heard the story of Acres of Diamonds told by Reverend Russell Conwell.  If you haven’t yet, here’s the story:

Although a farmer, Hafid was probably one of the richest men in Africa.  He owned a large farm with fertile soil, herds of camels and goats, orchards of dates and figs.  Then, one day, a wandering holy man visited his farm and mentioned that huge fortunes were being made discovering and mining diamonds – fortunes greater than even Hafid’s.

This news captured Hafid’s attention.  He inquired of the holy man what diamonds were and where they could be found.  The holy man said he wasn’t sure of all the details but he had heard that diamonds were usually found in the white sands of rivers that flowed out from valleys formed by V-shaped mountains.

Hafid, eager to increase his fortune, sold his farm, herds, and orchards. He placed his family in the care of someone else and set out to find his fortune.  Hafid’s travels took him all over Africa. Finally, in deep despair he threw himself off a mountain and died a frustrated, broken, poor man.

End of the story?  No, for Hafid never learned his lesson well.  He made a mistake of selling his land to another farmer who was not so ambitious.  One time, the farmer who bought Hafid’s farm noticed a pretty rock in the river while having his camels quenched their thirst.  He took it home and put it on a shelf where the sun would strike it and splash rainbows of color across the room.

The same holy man came back to the farm.  He was immediately startled by the rainbow of light from the rock.  “That’s a diamond!” he said.  He asked where it came from and the farmer told him he got it from the river.

The two went to the river, which flowed out from a valley formed by a V-shaped mountain.  And they found larger diamonds one after another.  There were so many of them, large and small.  The land, which Hafid sold in search for diamonds, was actually the land he was looking for.

I think from the said story, we can learn so many lessons from Hafid’s mistakes.  We should learn from his mistakes or else history will repeat itself.  “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts,” said Nikki Giovanni, one of the famous African-American poets.  Don’t worry making mistakes. They are, to quote the words of John Bradshaw, “are our teachers; they help us to learn.”

Former American President Bill Clinton said, “If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person.”  African-American author Haki Madhubuti agrees.  “To maintain the ability to admit and grow from our mistakes rather than let them defeat us represents best the inner strength of a people,” he says.

Don’t worry about what other people will say about you and what you have done.  “Take chances, make mistakes,” urges American film actress Mary Tyler Moore.  “That’s how you grow.  Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.”

Here’s an advice from another Hollywood actress, Cybill Shepherd: “We have to keep trying things we’re not sure we can pull off.  If we just do the things we know we can do, you don’t grow as much. You gotta take those chances on making those big mistakes.”

“No matter what mistakes you may have made – no matter how you’ve messed things up – you still can make a new beginning,” said inspirational author Normal Vincent Peale.    “The person who fully realizes this suffers less from the shock and pain of failure and sooner gets off to a new beginning.”

A doctor’s mistake is buried.  A lawyer’s mistake is imprisoned.  An accountant’s mistake is jailed.  A dentist’s mistake is pulled.  A pharmacist’s mistake is dead.  A plumber’s mistake is stopped.  An electrician’s mistake is shocking.  A carpenter’s mistake is sawdust.  A teacher’s mistake is failed.  A printer’s mistake is redone.

What about yours?