Hidden in every mistake is a life lesson. Despite the failed effort, the hidden lesson can often make up for the inconveniences born by the mistake. It’s widely known that the secret to a successful life is being able to convert mistakes into stepping stones. As a child growing up in poverty, I often used cartoons as an escape from the realities of a hard life. I spent hours watching cartoons like Space Ghost, Johnny Quest, and the Fantastic Four. Good always triumphed over evil, right was never wrong, and every episode ended with a lesson on life. Many of my best life lessons were revealed through the cartoons.
The best life lesson that I learned came from a cartoon character that rarely spoke a word….Wile E. Coyote. His repeated failures to capture the Road Runner brought many moments of laughter. The Acme Company made a ton of money with Wile E. as a repeat customer. Time after time, his high-tech gadgets blew up in his face and knocked him to the ground, often with something very heavy falling on top of him. Sometimes, his antics would even cause him to fall 5000 feet to the ground, get run over by truck, blown up with dynamite, or caused him to crash into the side of a mountain at one hundred miles per hour.
Despite his mistakes, Wile E. Coyote demonstrated one of the greatest human attributes embedded in our DNA: perseverance. No matter how many times he got knocked down, he got up! Every time he met a disappointment, he bounced back and kept trying. The life lesson that Wiley still sends to us today are best described within the words of my favorite motivator Les Brown, “If life knocks you down, try to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up.”
Believe it or not, Wile E. Coyote taught me how to overcome life’s most devastating setbacks. I learned from him that after every mistake we should do the following three things: 1) Look at the Mistake, 2) Learn from the Mistake and 3) Leave the Mistake.
Look our mistakes
One of the hardest things for us to do is to admit that we’ve made a mistake. The definition of a mistake in our society is wrongfully synonymous with “failure” and failures are also wrongfully indicative of weaknesses. The message that the world sends out daily is that only the strong will survive. Unfortunately, in a rat race it is only the rats that love to feast on the mistakes and weaknesses of others. When made public, mistakes can ruin careers, marriages, friendships, and even lives. To ease the sting of the humiliation that often trail mistakes, many people will use denial or ignorance. The best thing to do after a mistake is made is to readily admit that the event occurred. Like an alcoholic in denial, overcoming mistakes can’t begin until we admit them.
Learn from our mistakes
There is a big difference between an education and learning. For example, I received an education when my mother told me the stove in our kitchen was hot. I learned that the stove was hot when I got burned. True learning is the application of knowledge. A lesson lies at the core of every mistake. It is not until we are aware of them that the lesson can be revealed. All attempts to move forward without learning the lesson will only result in repeated mistakes. The result is the re-addiction of almost healed drug addicts, the re-imprisonment of almost rehabilitated criminals, and in general the return to a previously admitted mistake. The individual received an education, but they did not learn the intended lesson.
Leave our mistakes
Once we have learned the lesson, we should leave the mistake immediately. Lingering around afterwards leaves to doubt the understanding of the lesson. In school, an education is the end result of successful progression of consecutive lessons…each with increasing complexity. Failed lessons prevent the student from moving forward. Failed life lessons are similar. The progression of life stalls with each failed lesson. In school, what sense does it make to stay in an academic course that is successfully completed? In the same sense, what reason would there be to stay around a successfully learned life lesson?
It is true that mistakes can become opportunities, setbacks can become comebacks, and stumbling blocks can become stepping stones. It all depends on whether how you look at your mistakes, whether you learn from them and most importantly whether or not you leave them behind. Wile E. Coyote may never catch the Road Runner…but I’d be willing to bet that he won’t let his mistakes stop him from trying.