“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein
No, the word “misteaks” in the title is not a typographic error but intentional one. I know it because my computer highlighted the word with a red line. Yes, every time I misspelled a word, there is that annoying red line. But then, I am not perfect. Or as Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human…”
Don’t dismiss an error as trivial. Sometimes, a human error may cost someone else’s life. In Georgia, a news dispatch released by the Associated Press said that an Atlanta suburban woman died while waiting for an ambulance that a 911 operator sent to the wrong address.
According to authorities, the victim called 911 for help because of difficulty breathing. But the 911 operator misheard the address and sent crews to Wells Street in Atlanta instead of to the victim’s home on Wales Street in suburban Johns Creek. The streets are more than 30 kilometers apart. The mistake caused a 25-minute delay in response. The victim died from a pulmonary embolism.
“Mistakes are a part of being human,” author Al Franken wrote in 2002’s Oh, The Things I Know. “Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way.” Hugh White considers mistakes as “lessons of wisdom.”
Every mistake has a reason. You can either accept those reasons, and learn something positive from them, or you can turn them into excuses, and thereby allow them to defeat you. The Daily Devotional explains, “Each excuse is a small defeat, and they can add up quickly. The best strategy is to avoid them. Explain yourself but make no excuses. Listen to reason but accept no excuses.”
When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it. Some years back, Filipino actor Gabby Concepcion made his first sweeping, public apology to his former wife Sharon Cuneta in a taped interview with the GMA-7 showbiz talk show “Startalk,” “I’m really very sorry for what I’ve done to you and what didn’t turn out to be our future plans together,” the actor said.
“I’m really very sorry for my mistakes to you, to the family or to anybody whom I’ve hurt along the way,” he said in his message to Sharon, who is now married to Senator Francis Pangilinan. “From the bottom of my heart, I’m really, really regretful,” he said.
There are several reasons why we commit errors and blunders in life. Maybe it is due to stress, to get even, or by accident. In some instances, we make mistakes without knowing it.
For example, I saw my brother the other day chewing out sister for rearranging the books in his room. He had everything laid out to work on his project, but she thought it was messy and she wanted to help her brother. In the middle of his tirade, he caught himself and said, “I apologize. I’m just taking my frustrations out on you, and I know you meant to do well.”
Cicero, the sage man, has enumerated at least six mistakes of man. These are: (1) the delusion that personal gain is made by crushing others; (2) the tendency to worry things that cannot be changed or corrected; (3) insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it; (4) refusing to set aside trivial preferences; (5) neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and study; and (6) attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.
“No matter what mistakes you may have made – no matter how you’ve messed things up – you still can make a new beginning. The person who fully realizes this suffers less from the shock and pain of failure and sooner gets off to a new beginning,” reminds American inspiration speaker and author Norman Vincent Peale.
Experience, they say, is the best teacher. People who reach the age of 60 or more consider themselves old and won’t work anymore. All they have to do is sit back and enjoy life. If you do that, said former Singapore Minister Lee Kuan Yew who retired at the age of 62, “You’re making the biggest mistake of your life.”
He explained, “After one month, or after two months, even if you go travelling with nothing to do, with no purpose in life, you will just degrade, you’ll go to seed.” He further said, “The human being needs a challenge, and my advice to every person: Keep yourself interested, have a challenge. If you’re not interested in the world and the world is not interested in you, the biggest punishment a man can receive is total isolation in a dungeon, black and complete withdrawal of all stimuli, that’s real torture.”
Learn from a good leader like him. But in some instances, it doesn’t mean that good leaders are not bound to commit errors. George Washington, on his first military campaign, made a terrible mistake. The American colonies had not yet rebelled – that was 20 years down the road. At that time, Washington was working for Britain, which was in a “cold war” with France. The two countries were tussling with each other for territory all over the world, including the area near Virginia.
One day, Washington and his troops spotted a party of French camping in their territory, and attacked them, killing ten men and capturing the rest. He shot first and asked questions later. He found out it was a diplomatic party, and one of the men he killed was an important French ambassador.
Washington had made a big mistake. The two major military powers of that time ended their cold war and entered a hot war.
“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes,” wrote Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray.