Learning from other peoples' experiences

2011-10-14 15:19

One of the great abilities humans have is to learn from other peoples’ mistakes and experiences. A friend of mine was raised with a pretty strong sense that you should always do this rather than making your own mistakes. I have always had a prejudice towards this, but I have noticed that in fact I benefit a lot from learning from my own mistakes.

I have finally understood this. See. First, there’s just effectiveness-of-learning. You tend to learn more completely and more effectively from your own experiments. But that’s not where the big magic comes in.

Sooner or later, you will have to learn from your own mistakes, because you will need to learn a thing that is not teachable.

When this happens, it will be very useful to you if you are experienced at learning from your own mistakes and experiences. And the really neat thing is, the best way to get good at it is to do it on things where you can check your work — that is to say, things where it would be practical to learn from other people, too.

So it’s not a bad idea, necessarily. It’s sometimes, in fact, a necessary part of the process of developing the skill of developing skills.

So if you’ve been making mistakes that other people had already made? Don’t feel bad. You were probably right.

Peter Seebach