Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Learning by Experience

I've been thinking a lot these days about the mistakes we human beings make and how we cope with and handle them. Many of us are extremely hard on ourselves when it comes to making mistakes. We are sometimes taught that it is not acceptable to make mistakes. We judge ourselves harshly when we fall short of our own expectations.

I'm definitely included in this phenomenon. When I make mistakes of any kind, it takes a lot of work to keep from letting it tear down my feelings of self worth. I've spent many years learning how to have a little compassion for myself in the face of my own failings and imperfections.

I couldn't track down an exact source for this quote, but wanted to share it with you.

"Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement."

I firmly believe that this is true. It has certainly proven true in my own experience. Many of the valuable life lessons that I have learned have come from situations I would have given anything not to have been in!

I once shipped a beta version of a software product to literally thousands of people with a major 'bug' in it. It was a bug that was my responsibility, and I didn't realize it before the product was out the door. That day, I came closer to having a full blown panic attack than ever before in my life! I can assure you that I learned some valuable things that day about clarifying expectations, roles and responsibilities on any projects I was involved in from that moment on.

I have had major 'life lessons' in other contexts as well, as the result of poor judgement and decisions. I had debt problems when I was younger - and prone to living beyond my means. I also made a lot of mistakes in personal relationships and was taught by lots and lots of deep pain as a result.

After all is said and done, however, all of these various experiences cultivated a wisdom and maturity level I would have otherwise not obtained. That's the way life works.

Kids make lots of mistakes as they grow up. That is part of learning. Guess what? Learning is a life long process, which means we will all screw up along the way. It's part of the deal!!

The important thing is not that we never make mistakes, bad decisions or use bad judgment now and then. What's important is what we do once we realize it wasn't the best idea! From that moment on, we have the opportunity to add to our wisdom and knowledge base.

All of this can become part of a firm foundation from which we base our lives.

Don't go deliberately to try to gain wisdom from poor judgement, but when you find you've done something foolish or unwise... let it be a 'lesson' and head off in a new direction... stronger and wiser for the detour!