Self Development
Wise Are Those Who Learn From The Mistakes Of Others

by DP Sabharwal
Committing mistakes could be damaging in case of a career and costly in case of your own business. Being wise without committing and learning through your own mistakes is not difficult. Here is this simple seven-step procedure.
How true! But the million dollar question is who likes the truth these days? And secondly, who likes to learn from others in any case? More so about their mistakes!

Well, the plain and simple truth is; hardly anyone. In today's materialistic and cut-throat world where one wants to be on top of others, almost everyone not only prefers but does things his own way. No doubt many succeed, but a vast majority fails. The failures, of course, can never be eliminated, but its occurrence can definitely be reduced, if, and only if, we have the wisdom to learn from the mistakes of others. Starting that way the chances of success get multiplied. The whole process of getting into the mould of being wise without committing and learning through your own mistakes, which in any case could be damaging in case of a career and costly in case of your own business, is a simple seven-step procedure.

  1. What to Speak
    There are many things to be learnt in life, at whatever stage an individual might be, but one of the most basic and most important things is speaking. Not speaking per se, but what to speak, when to speak and to whom to speak. When one is not careful and selective about it, instead of making an impression, one can easily make a fool of oneself. 'He looked wise till he opened his mouth' sums up such a situation. Therefore, learn to know what to speak and what not to speak. Remember 'talking comes by nature and silence by wisdom.' 
  2. When You Make a Mistake
    In life everyone makes mistakes. At times it concerns and affects you alone. It does no harm to anyone except perhaps you. But then there are times when others are either likely to get hurt or indeed do get hurt, bodily, monetarily, psychologically or emotionally. While you can shrug your shoulders on first types, you definitely cannot afford to do so in the later type of mistakes. Then what should one do in such conditions?  Well, the answer is given by Jonathan Swift in this quote, 'A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wise today than he was yesterday.'
  3. After You Fail
    Everyone experiences failure sometime or the other. At times there are serious set-backs. There are times when one does not achieve set goals and targets. Question naturally arises as to what should one do at such moments? The answer is simple: listen to and act upon what William Shakespeare has said about such a situation, 'Wise man never sits and wail their loss, but cheerily seek how to redeem their losses.'
  4. When You Succeed
    There are times when you succeed, not once but again and again. At such moments, the success is bound to go to the head and one starts thinking highly of one-self. Nothing wrong in it, perhaps it is good, but the trouble starts when one starts thinking lowly of others. No doubt you can pat yourself to be wise for having achieved success, but do not commit the mistake of considering other to be fools. Never be boastful. Even in success learn to behave like a wise man and always keep in mind this proverb, 'The wise man knows that he knows nothing, the fool thinks he knows all.'
  5. Wise & Fool: The Difference
    Truly speaking there is not much of a difference between the wise and the fool provided you know this small difference! Albert Camus has aptly said, 'An intelligent man on one plane can be a fool on others.' The difference between wise and fool is small but subtle. Both wise and fool live and survive. Acts of both types, be it wise or foolish lead to some work, but how, when and what type is what matters. But the fact of the matter is what matters the most is how others understand and interpret you. One would never ever project oneself to be a fool when one goes by the saying of Antonio De Guevara, 'Among wise men, the wisest knows that he knows least. Among fools, the most foolish thinks he knows most.'
  6. Learn to be Wise
    One does not have to pay to learn except in educational institutes and organized courses. Learning for most part of life is free, more so the experiences of life that can be learnt without any cost. But alas, hardly anyone understands it simply because anything that comes free is never appreciated and never valued! Same goes for experiences, advice and wisdom. Unless sought from professionals after paying hefty charges under the guise of consultancy, any other type of advice is generally shrugged at. There is another angle to it as it is not possible to seek professional advice all the time. Therefore to be successful in life one has to learn and learn you must as per this saying of Melchior de Santa Cruz, 'The wise man profits more from the fool than the fool from the wise man, for the wise man takes warning by the fool, but the wise man's sense has no value for the fool.'
  7. Look for Wise Men
    'Wise men in the world are like timber trees in a hedge, here and there one,' says a proverb. Really true, isn't it? No doubt, yes, but then one has to keep looking around to find out one who is wise, in the real sense. Anyone who keeps eyes and ears open in general would be lucky, however never be damn sure because at times one might not be so lucky as was the experience of Tobias Smolell, who had this to say, 'Some folks are wise and some are otherwise.'

Three Final Words

Wisdom is a great asset but how does one acquire it? Well, not difficult at all, in fact it is really simple. It simply comes through observation, and can be acquired by drawing inferences from day-do-day happenings and by learning lessons from your own and others mistakes. To live happily in this materialistic and cut-throat competitive world, where there are endless worries and mounting pressures leading to crumbling and crushing of the body, the mind as well as the spirit, one has to be clear about one thing. Come what may, be worldly wise. And to be so follow the dictum, 'All human wisdom is summed up in three words: Wait, Learn and Hope!'

Wg Cdr DP Sabharwal (Retd) is a post-graduate in Aeronautical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He worked in the Indian Air Force for 25 years on fighter (Hunter, MiG-21, MiG-29) aircraft and helicopters (Chetak, Cheetah, Mi-8). He sought voluntary retirement in 1995 to pursue a career in teaching and writing.

A Fellow of Institution of Engineers and the Aeronautical Society of India, Sabharwal is visiting professor at engineering and MBA institutes and a Corporate Trainer on behavioral skills. Author of 22 books including 'A Finer You' a book on personal grooming, manners and etiquettes; he is settled in Bangalore (India) and can be contacted at