The Benefits of Making Mistakes

make mistakes




The most obvious benefit of making a mistake is learning a lesson. Whether what you learn is how not to do something or that you never want to do that again, or a million other possible lessons… you learn and live to make another mistake. Hopefully a different one. Hopefully not a fatal one. Hopefully one which ends up being constructive rather than destructive to you or others.

So, what are the other benefits of mistakes.



james Joyce



Sometimes we discover something about ourselves.

It can be something which we enjoy discovering. Such as facing a fear and finding out that not only is it not as terrifying as we thought it was, but we’re braver than we gave ourselves credit for being.

It can be something we’d rather not know but have discovered anyway. Such as that we are not as smart as we were convinced that we were and we have to eat some humble pie… but it’s not as disgusting as we thought it was because maintaining our smart cookie status was rather stressful.

Case in point – Experts Who Offer Psychology Advice Need to Heed Their Own by David Ropeik – Kudos to him for sharing this, he could have kept it quiet and we’d be none the wiser.

He subtitled the piece – A Scary Tale of Two (Almost) Tornadoes: The Danger of How Easily We Can Get Risk Wrong.

A mistake I made while reading this was to see the word ’Tomatoes’ instead of ‘Tornadoes’ , once I realised my mistake I felt rather sad. The concept of a tomato watch and warning which was so severe that the news interrupted the World Cup final pleased my sense of the ridiculous. Sometimes it’s rather nice when things don’t make sense, and it can be rather fun to make a mistake.

All mistakes need an excuse, so mine is this – I’d only just woken up and the blur of sleep was still clouding my eyesight.


Killer Tomatoes poster

Sometimes we learn something about someone else.

It can be something which is a welcome surprise. Such as the hidden genius of a friend or colleague, who presents you with a brilliant solution to a problem and helps you fix your mistake. Perhaps you didn’t know they had a talent like that because you’d never asked, they’d never mentioned it, and it had never had the opportunity to reveal itself before. Or maybe you are the beneficiary of the extraordinary kindness of strangers.

It can be something which is an unpleasant realisation. Such as finding out that a friend who is always bragging about being so sensitive towards others, disproves their boast the moment being sensitive is actually required. You can replace the word ‘sensitive’ with many other things, the result is still the same, we all know someone (perhaps even ourselves) who talks a loud talk but stumbles when they have to walk the path of their talk. We’ve all had those ‘finding out who your friends are’ experiences and they always come at the most inconvenient times. So we remember them.


Knight in shining armor



Then there are things which fall in the grey area in between the two. We’re horrified to discover something, but afterwards it proves to be useful information. Or we’re elated by a revelation only to regret knowing it later… often because knowing it means we can’t un-know it and it changes everything, which could mean having to start from scratch after years of dedicated hard work.

Sometimes mistakes are big, sometimes small, sometimes their size is indeterminable often due to perception and not necessarily knowing all the consequences of it. Some tiny errors can snowball and the shape of things to come can be hard to distinguish from a distance.

Who would have known that a paperclip would cause a nuclear meltdown – we may say afterwards.

I could have told you that! – claims Hindsight… hindsight is a frigging genius!

A large percentage of the advice which other people hand out like candy to friends and strangers are apres-error mints courtesy of hindsight, of lessons learned from making mistakes.

There’s a lot of advice in this world, to the point where we’re drowning in it because so much of it contradicts and conflicts creating whirlpools of confusion. Sometimes we just have to forget it all and figure things out for ourselves. Make our own mistakes, learn our own lessons, and draw our own conclusions… which often lead to us adding our own drops of advice to the ocean of it which already exists.



shark bait


To err is human… to make something of our errors is also human. What we make of our errors (and the errors of others, those which affect us and those which don’t but which come to our attention) depends on who we are, and we’re all artists of our own human experience.

Some people make excuses from mistakes, others make opportunities, others make a career out of it, others make a martyr out of them, others make more mistakes, others make inspiration, others make misery, and so on and so forth into infinity and beyond.

To err is human, to forgive… is optional.



board gamesby According to Devin



Forgive is usually partnered with forget. And while I can see the logic in that… from a certain angle it looks like a mistake.

There are benefits to forgetting mistakes, but there are also benefits to remembering them.

The benefit which springs to mind right now is that being aware that we have made mistakes softens the hard edges of idealism, especially that type of idealism which spawns perfectionism. No one is perfect… yet people keep forgetting it. Remembering that allows for a smoother flow of life and relationships. When we forget our mistakes, we tend to catch that virus known as hypocrite-itis.





How could you do that! we say indignantly while rubbing someone’s nose in their stinky mistake. I would never do something like that!

Of course you may ‘never do something like that’ but you’ve probably done things of the same family as that.

That doesn’t mean you need to stop rubbing that person’s nose in their mistake (although that in and of itself may end up being a mistake – no one likes to have their nose rubbed in their mistakes – so beware… be aware of what you’re doing at all times when you’re being self-righteous. Duck! Boomerangs!), but maybe the smell of it will remind your olfactory memory that your deeds don’t all smell of roses… and that your rose-smelling deeds grow better with fertiliser crafted from your own stinky mistakes.



alan cohen



The other day I ran recklessly through a patch of stinging nettles in flip flops while chasing rebel escapist sheep back into their enclosure (yes, this drama is still ongoing). I returned from my rose-smelling deed for the day in a nettle-sting induced mood. I made my way to the drawer in the kitchen which holds the balm for nettle stings and found the essential balm missing. I felt nettled in more ways than one. Where was my balm, what demon from hell removed it!

Of course I knew which demon from hell had removed it, and knew that the demon was actually an absent-minded angel. I shouted to the heavens for the angel to bring me the missing balm. A few seconds later I was presented with a tube of… callous cream. I was about to strike the angel down with a thunderbolt when humour stayed my hand.

This mistake, and all the mistakes which preceded it (particularly my refusal to learn not to run through nettle patches in flip flops), was offering me an opportunity to nourish myself with some food for thought…

Something which I shall expand upon in another post, this one is too long already. But if you want to pip me to the post, I was considering titling the piece – Applying callous cream to a wound – or something like that. Probably not that… but maybe that.





  1. Ursula’s sense of humour at its peak! I really enjoyed reading it, with the rubbing nose affair and the nettle balm and the absent-minded angel! Thank you.


  2. I love those words in a song by Seal “sometimes to get things right, we have to get things wrong”. I keep thinking when reading this post of the inconjunct aspect of which I have a few and the idea of adjustments where by we learn to perfect something through trial and error. We can always choose again. Absolutely love that Alan Cohen quote BTW.


    • Inconjuct… isn’t that the one which denotes one planet which has nothing in common with the other? It’s like two aliens who come from planets so different that they can’t find any common ground. They’re never going to understand each other, but they can learn to agree to disagree and perhaps appreciate what they don’t understand or have to understand as having value because it has value to someone somewhere even if not to you personally, it is precious because it is so foreign… a place not yet visited, unknown territory. Or something like that.

      I have an allergic reaction to the concept of perfection – trial and error is not about perfecting something, but about appreciating the wabi-sabi of life 😉

      Once something is perfected it becomes obsolete. Or at least that is my view… and my view is skewed as I live in the land of being an imperfect mess, who enjoys being an imperfect mess.


      • MMM when I wrote that comment and used the word perfect I had an inkling this might jarr. I seem not to have expressed myself with the degree of acceptance and insight you showed. I just do feel that two inconjuncts bring about a process of alchemy within both energies as they seek to adapt or adjust things, but I could well be off base with that. I don’t seem capable of the depth of thinking you show Ursula.


        • And despite what I wrote Im not the comfortable with perfectionism either but on a subtle level at times I see I am indeed an unconscious perfectionist. I think it could be one of the downsides of being an Aquarian. I remember it being talked about in one of my tutorials when I was studying Psychological Astrology. Thanks for busting me. 🙂 and shining a light of truth on my comment.


          • I have perfectionist tendencies too. I think everyone does because it is a part of idealism and the things of which idealism is a part, such as creativity. Perfectionism, like everything, has positive qualities too, it has the ability to inspire us to improve, to evolve, to fix, and tinker and learn. So I think it needs to be appreciated for all that it does which is productive. And we need to appreciate that sometimes it can be destructive or obstructive when it is allowed to tip into its negative side and stayed tipped there for too long.

            Aquarius is a visionary, therefore an idealist, an idealist who wants to bring its ideals to life. Aquarius can envision the perfect world, this inspires it to bring that vision to the world, through activism, through philosophy, through endeavours that benefit one and all. A certain amount of one-pointed focus is needed to do that. However it can end up being dogma if the flexibility which Aquarius is also known for, becomes rigid due to ambition to bring a vision into reality, into physical form.

            There is nothing wrong with perfectionism, idealism, per se, it’s more about how it is used, expressed, and if it is flexible and balanced.

            Is it an artist who knows when his creation is done, when it is time to release and share it, or is it one who spends his entire life painting one painting, never feeling that it is ever good enough, never allowing anyone to see it because it isn’t perfect yet.


            • Yes you are so right. Aquarians can be dogmatic at times in pursuit of their ideals,(I know I have been at times) they see the ideal and want it to be real but the truth is humans aren’t ideal they come in all shapes and sizes they aren’t an idea of the mind but a consequence of all kinds of experiences and processes..a beingness that might not fit very well into that ideal shape. I think you are getting at this so well in the fantastic post of yours about trying to get a narcissist to love you. My experience with my ex narc was that unless I fit the ideal of his vision of how I should be I was innately flawed and inferior. I love that comment that the Jungian analyst Marion Woodman uses that comes from one of the poets (was it WH Auden) “To love your crooked neighbour with your own crooked heart”. There’s nothing lovelier than when someone sees into our klutsy musty dark side and loves us for it anyway and does not demand perfection of us. Cause of my upbringing I have absolutely NO trust this can be possible. It was one of the things I loved so much when I got sober. In the fourth step your share all your darkest secrets with someone expecting them to be horrified and how they react is “so what?”. I went through a catholic education which concentrated so much on fucked up visions of ideal behaviour we had to ascribe to… which involves eliminating our so called sinful dark side…. which is really part of our most human wholeness…. if you got me started on that it could degenerate into a rant…..that could go on for ages 🙂


        • You expressed yourself well, it’s just me reacting to old bugaboos concerning the concept of perfect.

          And this – I don’t seem capable of the depth of thinking you show – made me chuckle, you’re deep thinking personified! I think we just do our deep thinking differently, mine’s very Mars in Scorpio, ’tis all! 😀


  3. Yep. Playing a little (big) game of catch-up.

    I am loving my mistakes. This includes the small ones that I make on a daily basis. They help me shake my head or laugh at my reflection. Acknowledgement is acknowledgement.


    • That game of catch-up has a way of taking up so much time that you end up playing it for the rest of your life, because while you’re busy catching up on the there and then you miss what’s going on in the here and now, so you have to catch-up on that and… so it goes 😉

      Thanks for catching up, acknowledging and having a chuckle (be careful of head shakes, in case they become head bangs, some guy gave himself brain damage due to too much head-banging) 😀


  4. I am a compulsive perfectionist. I feel that I need avoid making mistakes to save myself from grief. I recently listened to the is song and it made think that maybe I am missing out on “experiencing” some of what life has to offer by always being so overly careful.


    I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone
    I recommend walking around naked in your living room
    Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
    It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
    Wait until the dust settles

    You live you learn
    You love you learn
    You cry you learn
    You lose you learn
    You bleed you learn
    You scream you learn

    I recommend biting off more then you can chew to anyone
    I certainly do
    I recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time
    Feel free
    Throw it down (the caution blocks you from the wind)
    Hold it up (to the rays)
    You wait and see when the smoke clears

    You live you learn
    You love you learn
    You cry you learn
    You lose you learn
    You bleed you learn
    You scream you learn

    Wear it out (the way a three-year-old would do)
    Melt it down (you’re gonna have to eventually anyway)
    The fire trucks are coming up around the bend

    You live you learn
    You love you learn
    You cry you learn
    You lose you learn
    You bleed you learn
    You scream you learn

    You grieve you learn
    You choke you learn
    You laugh you learn
    You choose you learn
    You pray you learn
    You ask you learn
    You live you learn


    • My mother was a perfectionist and expected it of others too. Her version of perfectionism came across as being quite hellish, for her and for those who were affected by her. Mistakes were the ultimate fear.

      I have no idea whether perfectionism is a good thing or bad thing. Lots of people seem to embrace it. I’m not one of those, so of course I prefer imperfectionism to perfectionism. I enjoy making mistakes and being flawed, it’s very liberating. But that’s just my take on it. It’s what suits me. One size does not fit all and that’s part of the fun of life and of people 🙂


      • Good point Ursula,

        Yes, that also acts as flaw of mine, especially in myself being a mother

        I can see that sometimes I inadvertently do to others as you mom did to you. I have a huge fear of making mistakes. I don’t expect people to be perfect at all ,but I highly expect it from myself. This at times affect others.

        My mom hated that about me . She used to vindictively say to me ” who do you think you are? — little miss perfect? ” At the time I was only a teen and I did not even realize I was being that way. She would say it about how I looked or how I interacted with people though when she was having a jealous Narc rage. It was very hurtful.

        I think my perfection stems from my hypervigilence of continuing to walk on eggshells in life as I had to with my mom . Everything seemed so random & exhausting growing up in that house. I strived for lessing the blows. Thats where it comes from.

        As I said in my last post, I would like to change and learn that its ok to make some mistakes and in turn to enjoy the journey more instead of worrying so much about just the destination……

        Plus being a perfectionist is a very exhausting way to be…..


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