Theodore Roosevelt once said:
The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.
I like that.
It’s not about not making mistakes as we’re all going to do that (some more than others, perhaps), but the point is that we all stay in forward motion, that we’re doing things that accelerate our lives and the lives of others.
I’ve never been accused of doing nothing or sitting idly. In fact, it’s always been the exact opposite and there have been times in my life when I’ve been counseled to slow down and do a little bit less, especially for the sake of my health.
I’ve made so many mistakes in my life as a consequence of my desire to always move forward, to act, but it’s only now that I’ve begun to be able to distinguish between distinctly bad mistakes and the ones that are actually quite good.
And sometimes it just takes time to be able to see some of these decisions with greater clarity. In other words, mistakes that were once easily classified as “bad” have had their title stripped and now I can see them as “good,” if that makes sense.
You see, immediately following a mistake we tend to beat ourselves up about it, get angry (at ourselves and others) and swear that we’ll never make that mistake again. Then, over time, after we’ve started the process of healing (or walking through the stages of grief) we see the events with a subtle and nuanced appreciation for what it was.
And we begin to see that we’ve grown, we’ve advanced, and we’ve moved our understanding of what it means to be human. We’ve gained insight, empathy, and valuable experiences that may have value later (or not).
I have made many, many mistakes but now I see that many of them have been really good ones.
And, as Teddy says, if there’s one thing that is true it’s that we must act, we must move forward, we must grow, and learn, and actively engage. Not deciding and not acting is the greatest mistake of all.