The chief trick to making good mistakes is not to hide them — especially not from yourself. Instead of turning away in denial when you make a mistake, you should become a connoisseur of your own mistakes, turning them over in your mind as if they were works of art, which in a way they are. … The trick is to take advantage of the particular details of the mess you’ve made, so that your next attempt will be informed by it and not just another blind stab in the dark, Dennett writes.
He continues: “We have all heard the forlorn refrain ‘Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!’ This phrase has come to stand for the rueful reflection of an idiot, a sign of stupidity, but in fact we should appreciate it as a pillar of wisdom. Anyone who says, ‘Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!’ is standing on the threshold of brilliance.
A unique hallmarks of human intelligence is our ability to remember our previous thinking and reflect on, learn from it, use it to construct future thinking. Reminding us to beware our culture’s deep-seated fear of being wrong, Dennett advocates celebrating the “ignorance” that produced the mistake in the first place:
“So when you make a mistake, you should learn to take a deep breath, grit your teeth, and then examine your own recollections of the mistake as ruthlessly and as dispassionately as you can manage. It’s not easy. The natural human reaction to making a mistake is embarrassment and anger (we are never angrier than when we are angry at ourselves), and you have to work hard to overcome these emotional reactions. Try to acquire the weird practice of savoring your mistakes, delighting in uncovering the strange quirks that led you astray. Then, once you have sucked out all the goodness to be gained from having made them, you can cheerfully set them behind you, and go on to the next big opportunity.”
“You should actively seek out opportunities to make grand mistakes, just so you can then recover from them.” — Daniel Dennett
Topics: Taking risks, learning from mistakes, self-awareness, mental toughness, resilience