Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Mistakes Can Make You Smarter

As I get older, I find that I am finding more courage to try new things. When we are younger, particularly when we are still in school, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to blend in. We want other kids to like us and don’t want to draw attention to our imperfections. What we don’t realize at that age is that anyone who believes we are perfect is delusional. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. AND contrary to the popular belief of teens everywhere, the world will NOT end when you make one, even if it is made in a very public manner.


Of course, try to convince a teenager of that and you will get a lot of rolled eyes and arguments that you don’t have any idea what you are talking about. I don’t have teens, but I was one. So I know what I am talking about. 🙂

I read an interesting article on of my favorite websites, Brain Pickings. The article was called “Intuition Pumps,” and discussed the science of making mistakes. Daniel C. Dennett wrote a book called Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking which covers 77 ways to extend your imagination and focus your mind. The first method he discusses is making mistakes.

We aren’t talking about tiny little mishaps that we can pretend never happened. We don’t glean much benefit from those. The kind of mistakes we get the most out of are those that people know about, the ones we can’t cover up and hide, the whoopsies that we can’t blame on someone else.


In his book, Dennett tells us ” Instead of turning away in denial when you make a mistake, you should become a connoisseur of your own mistakes, turning them over in your mind as if they were works of art, which in a way they are. … The trick is to take advantage of the particular details of the mess you’ve made, so that your next attempt will be informed by it and not just another blind stab in the dark.”

Learning from mistakes makes us human. We can look back on our previous approach and make adjustments to our next attempt.

Have you ever heard the 10,000 hour rule? It takes 10,000 hours of practice to become good at something. That is a lot of time. Yet, so many of us run off with our big plans and dreams and having failed or made a mistake with the first attempt, never make the second. There is a reason why so many people are wandering around not living their dream. They are too afraid to make a mistake to try again.

Mistakes are actually a great learning tool. They merely point out areas where we need more practice. Changing your view of mistakes is the best gift you can give yourself.


Other smart people have advised us to do the same:

Author, Neil Gaiman told graduating seniors to “Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before!”

Author, Debbie Millman tells us that if we aren’t making big mistakes, we aren’t taking big enough risks.

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip said, ” It helps to see failure as a road and not a wall.”

Just think. So many people like to point out the mistakes of others. They will be thrilled if we start owning our mistakes and giving them an opportunity to offer sage wisdom. 🙂

I personally plan on continuing to make a lot of mistakes in my life. It has never led me astray. Through mistakes I have been able to learn what works and what doesn’t, what I want and what I want to avoid.



  1. Chrissy Rex

    Very nicely written. Just from personal experience, I think that the 10,000 hour rule may be a little understated. 😃

    • I agree! 10,000 hours is a drop in the bucket compared to a lifetime!

  2. morgaine620

    What a great post my friend 🙂

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