The Importance of Making Mistakes

The Importance of Making Mistakes

For the longest time, I thought the Third Eye Blind lyric read “I wanna get up one time and not apologize.” My mistake has since been corrected but part of me rather remember it that way…

In a world that stigmatizes mistakes, we are taught from a very young age that mistakes are the worst things we can make. In everyday educational institutions we are penalized for making them but the truth is, mistakes lead to experience and thus knowledge. I would like to go as far and say that mistakes are the BEST things we can make if we really want to learn anything at all.

It’s no wonder that our education system is broken. It’s a system that is striving to minimize a great learning strategy and simply focus on playing it “safe” through standardized tests and other state requirements. Sure, we learn in school but what if we were free to make as many mistakes as needed? If anything we should be striving to make BETTER mistakes. Giving our children the opportunity to fail and not just fail in some menial way, I mean putting everything they know to chance and simply rolling the dice kind of way and seeing what comes of it could have a huge impact.

Why do we live in a world where mistakes are the worst things we can make? I believe if we truly want to see innovation, we erase that ideology from the youth and see where that takes us. Naturally as they grow older, responsibility will come and actions will have consequences but isn’t life in some way a large experiment? Even democracy for that matter?

The question is, how do we change the current ideology and start new again? I think it’s a question of values. What do we value as a society, making better mistakes or a system that reflects how well we can play by the rules? What’s the point of making rules in the first place? It’s these types of questions we need to ask ourselves if we are serious about “winning the future.” I don’t want to be known as simply talking in quotes but, “Today’s problems can’t be solved with the same thinking in which they were generated.” This is to say, if we want anything extraordinary then we must be willing to do extraordinary things.

That entire idea is the foundation of America and I am afraid we have partially lost sight of that. I am hopeful though, the 21st century is slowing coming into character and as we transition from a post industrial world, we have to learn what, as a culture, we value. The traditional lifestyles of the “American Dream” we know so well will soon be a concept in textbooks. It is time we revamp this idea for the 21st century. Any thoughts as to what the 21st century American Dream might be? I for one, would like to emphasize the importance of making mistakes as one of the pillars. How about you?


“A true leader will let you fail but not let you feel like a failure” – quote unknown (at least to me)

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8 responses to “The Importance of Making Mistakes”

  1. Brian Fort says :

    I think the American dream, even if we can close the gap between poor and rich, will involve everyone doing more with less. No more desks, no more TV stands, no more books/magazines, no more music/movie collections, no more sound systems, etcetra, etcetera.

    The same for schools. Perhaps the government should give tax credits to mom’s for staying home and home schooling their kids until age 12. Have a system like child protective services make sure they are being educated.

    Or at the least leave it to the states to decide how to run education. That way we learn from other peoples mistakes much quicker, and can better target cultural generalities that each area has. Maybe some states will allow county run education, and some of those counties will allow individual municipalities to run their own school system. The Federal government could be the equivalent of CPS for bad parents, they go in and reform bad school districts.

    This would eliminate a lot of the national debate on religion in schools. If parents don’t like how the school is, they can home school. Perhaps the school district can do the smart thing and not teach evolution or Intelligent Design. I understand both sides perspective on the issue, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why either needs to necessarily be taught in a biology class.

    • Dan Fonseca says :

      Hey Brian,

      Thanks for your comment. When you bring in the budget, you bring in a lot of tension. I read an article yesterday and I think a quote went something along the lines of “people put their money where their heart is.” This is to say that the budget is always going to be a tricky debate due to its emotional foundation; it’s a reflection of what we believe to be as important.

      I do sympathize with the educational argument. Though the idea may not be fully baked, most can agree that something must be done. However, a blanket solution to education will not be the case; one size will not fit all. The problems are just as unique as our students! Does this mean a hybrid system? A little old with a little new? It seems as if the 21st century has embodied that very well so far. I’d like to try it with education.

      Any other ideas Brian? I’d love to hear them!

      Thanks for the great post.


  2. Daniel Abram says :

    I wrote about something similar:

    • Dan Fonseca says :

      I saw your post Daniel, great attitude. I guess at the core of both of our posts lies the idea of turning a typically “bad” moment into a good one. Life is about perspective and this example is no exception.

      “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

      Thanks again Daniel

  3. Christian Hollingsworth says :

    Some of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned have come from making mistakes. From failing. From being human. Often we just can’t have empathy for another – without really facing that same trial ourselves.

    The difficulties and hardships in life are what make each of us strong. We’re like trees. When the going gets rough – we dig our roots a little deeper – and prepare for the next storm. Those who have seen the most storms; are often the greatest inspiration.

    Great thoughts here. Your writing is fantastic.

    • Dan Fonseca says :

      Thanks Christian! I am sorry it took me so long to approve your comment, for some reason it was hidden deep in the spam folder… weird.

      Anyways, I totally agree with you and the analogy of the deeper roots is a great one. I see you have done a few things for yourself as well. Congrats! What’s your story?

      All my best,


  4. Ron Amundson says :

    While I tend to agree with you, there are many in society, perhaps even a majority who find mistakes or worse, even a semblance of risk anathema. Just look at public policy, safety seems to trump near everything…. I think back to my younger days when my boy scout master said, never go anywhere without a knife. Today, knifes are evil, rather than tools one may need as part of being prepared for anything which one might run into.

    The thing is, economics and such are likely to force risk into the forefront once again. Probably not to the extent our ancestors experienced, but alas such will be a much greater part of life than the last 2-3 generations have known. As such, folks will go kicking and screaming as such happens… perhaps a partial solution might be looking at ways to ease the pain of that happening?

    • Dan Fonseca says :

      Thanks Ron. In response to your final question, I think the BEST way to ease the pain of failure is by getting rid of the negative stigma that is attached to it. Once we “give the gift of failure,” I believe we will be a little less inhibited as a society, willing to try more things, explore ourselves and the edges of our systems. In a way, it is our human duty to explore the edges of the universe. To know is to be, right? “I think therefore I am”

      Thanks for weighing in Ron! Stay around :)

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