The Freedom To Make Mistakes

19/04/2016 8:12 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST via Getty Images

As we go through life, we often find ourselves at a crossroads, juggling divergent stances: responsibility versus freedom, certainty versus uncertainty, structure versus fluidity, friendliness versus control, acceptance versus rejection, or even known paths versus unknown paths.

Such moments are always fraught with hesitation--uncertainty in dealing with uncertainty; loss of control and clarity; a vacuum of thought till we delve deep within and find new answers, fresh strengths, clear choices.

Jean Paul Sartre had fretted in the middle of the previous century about the paucity of choices. That held true for his generation in pre-war and post-war Europe, gridlocked by lack of opportunity and burdened by losses to the exchequer. Today, we face the opposite. A plethora of opportunities lie before us. Our choice is thus harder--to match ourselves, our expectations, our negotiable and non-negotiable stances with what faces us.

With each mistake, there is fresh learning and new movement forward. That, indeed, is life.

Irish poet James Stephens said more than a century ago that "Finality is death. Perfection is finality. Nothing is perfect." Anything that is alive, therefore, must necessarily evolve and go through the motion of exiting older states and entering newer states.

Making mistakes is an integral part of this evolution, as any entrepreneur and philosopher will corroborate. The Chinese firm Haier, a leader in consumer durables, celebrates mistakes. Technology companies like Intuit and Google actually create celebratory rituals out of failures. India's very own Ratan Tata has said that failure can be a goldmine of opportunity. After all, failure can make us realize, if we are open to perceiving this, what could have been done differently. Iteration is a proven way forward in technology and science and even art.

Why then should we go through life worrying that making mistakes is a mistake in itself? Mahatma Gandhi had remarked once that freedom is not worth having if we do not have the freedom to make mistakes.

That indeed is a freedom we need to grant ourselves, our children, our families, our employees, indeed our firms.

With each mistake, there is fresh learning and new movement forward. That, indeed, is life.

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