Learning from experiences…

Every now and then I’ll see a sign or ad somewhere that says, “Now hiring experienced (fill in a job here)”. I thought of that when I recently saw this Oscar Wilde quote – “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” Wilde had a great, if somewhat biting, sense of humor. So, I surmise that the employer is looking for someone who has already made lots of mistakes… somewhere else.

Of course, we can learn from successes as well as mistakes; it’s just that we tend to stop and give more thought to our mistakes and hopefully try to learn from them. Not everyone learns from mistakes. Many try to blame their lack of success on someone or something else. Denial of mistakes, or not taking personal responsibility for them, delays or prevents learning from taking place and dooms one to repeated failures. Eventually, most even learn from that, too.

Often a consequence of suffering a setback in life is that it may not set you back into the same place that you were in before it occurred. That is certainly true of life events like divorces or being fired or laid-off. Perhaps through no direct mistake that you made your life has taken a dramatic change. In some cases, the “mistake” was that you didn’t see it coming, because you weren’t paying close enough attention to what was happening around you. I those cases the “mistake” was not taking steps to get prepared for what was coming. We lament later that we should have seen the “handwriting on the wall.”  We do not move forward from the same place that we were in before; but we learn from that.

Like many other things in life, one can make learning from our experiences an integral part of life by establishing a pattern or habit of taking the time each day to reflect on any mistakes that were made or setbacks that occurred. The goal should be to analyze what you did then and to think about a better approach or reaction in the future, should a similar situation arise. I find it helpful to start with a prayer. Praying, being thankful for being given another day and accepting God’s forgiveness for things that one might have done or left undone puts one in the right frame of mind to learn from the event s of the day.

So, whatever your mistakes may be, learn from them and turn your experiences into wisdom. As Confucius said – “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Some of us may take time for reflection before acting and some may choose to imitate the right person to be successful; however, for most of us, our experiences will be the bittersweet road we take to wisdom.

Let us all learn something today.


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