5 Ways to Learn from Mistakes

The dumbest mistake is making the same mistake.

Why don’t you put your hand in fire? Because you learned.

We’re toast unless we learn from mistakes.

Learning from mistakes makes existence possible.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” This quote originated in an Al-Anon meeting, not Einstein.

Success hinges on learning from mistakes.

John Wooden said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.”

Sadly, some of us learn slowly. A few don’t learn at all.

5 ways to learn from mistakes:

#1. Own it.

Criminals that experience guilt repeat their crimes less frequently than criminals that experience shame. (NIH)

Shame tends to blame. Blame rejects responsibility.

The person who owns their mistakes grows, but blamers repeat mistakes.

Say, “I screwed up.”

Blame produces ignorance.

Tip: Notice what people say about their mistakes.

#2. Make it right.

You learn and grow when you fix what you did wrong.

Tip: Give people a chance to fix their own mistakes.

#3. Know who you are.

You made a mistake, but you aren’t a mistake. When personal identity is tied to mistakes, we tend to hide and blame.

#4. Debrief.

I love the question, “What’s working?” However, we learn more from failure than we learn from success. Ask the four questions of an after-action review:

  1. What were our intended results?
  2. What were our actual results?
  3. What caused our results?
  4. What will we sustain or improve?

#5. Teach.

Teach others what you learned from screwing up. Here’s a conversation starter for your next team meeting. “What have you learned from mistakes?”

Kangaroo knocks out boxer.

Winners learn from mistakes. Losers create destructive patterns.


Reflect on frustration. Recurring frustration is cultivated by repeating the same mistakes. Dig into frustration.

The best mistakes are learning experiences.

Winners learn from mistakes. Losers create destructive patterns.

What prevents us from learning from mistakes?

How might leaders learn from their mistakes?

Psychology: Why Some Don’t Learn from Their Mistakes (newsweek.com)

3 Ways Owning Your Mistakes Will Make You Powerful (entrepreneur.com)