Learning from past mistakes

Last week I joined the company of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
And I did it by making a mistake.
We’ve all heard it before – everyone makes mistakes every day.
But when it’s our turn to commit a wrongdoing that affects hundreds of our peers, the word mistake doesn’t seem like such a casual term.
Although nothing I did was earth-shattering, it was mind-shattering and embarrassing. And sometimes that’s enough to make our own world shake, even if the world around us is fine.
Edison tried making the light bulb 10,000 times before the final product was complete. Ford was criticized for spending millions of dollars before the first Model T was created.
But my story doesn’t end with a new invention that will benefit the whole world. So how did my mistake allow me to join the ranks of such genius?
Joining their ranks had nothing to do with committing my mistake, but how I reacted to it.
At first my head hung low. Having my pride stripped left me vulnerable and upset, and I let my error linger in my mind until a professor told me to let it go.
“Mistakes are how we learn,” she said.
I’d heard the saying since I was young and I didn’t want to listen to her. My mistake was still out there in the open, causing my peers to poke fun at me and presumably hurting my reputation.
This was the moment I had to decide to let the mistake keep pushing me back or jump in front of it and leave it behind.
Its effects would exist regardless, but why embrace them?
When asked how it felt to fail 10,000 times, Edison replied he hadn’t made 10,000 mistakes but had learned 10,000 things that didn’t work.
“I never made a mistake in my life,” Ford said when asked about his failure before success. He said money was made to be spent, and if he hadn’t spent millions on his errors he would have never made any progress.
This is when I decided to jump. I took the Edison-Ford approach and decided to use my mistake as a tool for learning rather than a past liability.
College is a time to embrace our mistakes. The consequences of making them now are far less than if we make them in our futures.
And while it may be difficult to swallow our pride and admit we’ve messed up, there’s always a brighter light waiting for us on the other side for when we decide to jump over.
Edison’s and Ford’s mistakes weren’t supported by their peers. No one had faith in them to successfully complete their projects.
Sometimes we have to do it on our own. Sometimes people try to act as barriers, not allowing us to get to the other side.
But it sure makes it a lot easier when people are there for you.
It’s my hope that everyone in the Bradley community can realize that part of being human involves making mistakes, and another part of it involves being there for each other after we’ve made them.
Students aren’t perfect and faculty isn’t either. If we’d take the time to realize this, we might all struggle a little less.
And most importantly, this awareness of imperfection will allow us to be there to catch each other when we do make the jump to the other side.
Emily Regenold is a junior journalism major from Cincinnati. She is a Scout staff reporter.
Direct questions, comments and other responses to eregenold@bradley.edu.