The silver lining of my mistakes

I've always considered myself lucky in the sense that I understand the value of making a mistake.

When I started college in 2004, I had dreams of taking pre-med courses. I set a goal to earn a two-year degree in nursing, followed by four years of working the late night shift at any hospital that would hire me while I earn a doctorate degree in physical therapy.

Needless to say, things didn't pan out the way I had hoped. I had at best a C average in lab biology my first semester, I hated every minute of the course readings, and my greatest accomplishment in Chemistry 102 was accidentally breaking two glass beakers before dropping the course at midterms.

My chemistry professor said I single-handedly raised the danger level in the lab from yellow to red.

Looking back, I can say it was all a mistake. I didn't like biology in high school, so in hindsight it was asinine to embark on the start of a career in the medical field. Yet I can't say my experience was all bad. After all, I ruled out medical school early on, which put me on a path of more palatable career options. And as a bonus, I got my required science credits out of the way after my first semester.



Of course I've made much more considerable mistakes since then, some of which are too personal or embarrassing to admit. Some have me still looking for the silver lining that helps me believe they may not have been such bad mistakes after all.

As human beings, it’s no secret that we're all susceptible to making mistakes. It’s why they put erasers on pencils. The key to dealing with these mistakes is learning what we can and move on – or so I've been told. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from Homer Simpson (a famed philosopher in his own right) who said, “Trying is the first step toward failure.”

Unfortunately most of us are too ashamed or simply too stubborn to admit that we made a mistake in the first place. We're slow to think the problems lie with us and quick to blame anything else or anyone else for our own wrongdoings. Truth is, mistakes create opportunities and opportunities can create better choices.

Which beckons the question, why do we opt to make the same mistakes over and over again instead of learning and growing? The comedian Darrell Hammond pointed out during one of his stand-up routines that men are the worst culprits when it comes to making the same mistake more than once. When a man dials the wrong phone number, for example, he won't admit that he dialed the wrong number. He just dials the same number again but pushes the buttons harder.

I recently read an article online that says people who repeatedly make the same mistake can't blame it on their stubbornness as much as they can the loose connections in their brain. According to the author (who I'm calling Dr. What's-his-face from Wossamotta U), the kinds of people who just never seem to learn actually lack the capacity to process the feedback of a bad decision, which in turn leads them to make the same bad decisions over and over.

This might explain a lot for avid readers for the police blotter.

Other studies I've stumbled across suggest people don't learn from their own mistakes as much as they do their successes. We're apparently creatures who enjoy the reward of doing something right more than we enjoy avoiding the consequence of doing something wrong. Seems like a legitimate idea to me. Anyone who's thought twice before downing a glass of orange juice after brushing their teeth could appreciate that.

Regardless, mistakes are inevitable. I once heard that those who are afraid of making mistakes are afraid of trying something new; and without trying something new, they can never learn. That's the group of people I want to be in.

Follow Shawn on Twitter ...

@evesunshawn

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