Monday, 25 April 2011

a Moment for Wisdom…


“The Creator designed us to learn by trial and error. The path of life we walk is very wide. Everything on the path is sacred – what we do right is sacred – but our mistakes are also sacred. This is the Creator’s way of teaching spiritual people.

To criticize ourselves when we make mistakes is not the Indian way. To learn from our mistakes is the Indian way. The definition of a spiritual person is someone who makes 30-50 mistakes each day and talks to the Creator after each one to see what to do next time. This is the way of the warrior.”

Don Coyhis, Native American (Mohican)

Personal Wisdom:

Do you welcome and accept your mistakes?

Do you see your mistakes as learning opportunities?

Do you try to avoid and deny your

Societal Wisdom:

  • Does your society “own” its mistakes? Learn from them?

  • Does your society deny its mistakes and/or blame them on others?

  • What are the three biggest historical mistakes your society has made?
  • What are the three biggest mistakes your society is currently making?

[NOTE: As the audience for “A Moment for Wisdom” is international, my societal questions will be phrased for whatever society you may live in, not just “American”.]

a Moment with Sharif…



When I was raising children, I never punished them for making a mistake. They were punished only for doing that which they knew they should not do.* The reason for not punishing them for making mistakes was obvious: I was still making them! Still am!

Look at how a child learns. They take two steps forward and fall. They get back up and take three steps…They stick something in their mouth and learn that it doesn’t taste very good. They learn that they can get a positive reaction from the adults in their lives by mimicking their facial expressions. They learn the bulk of their language, complete with rules of grammar, before they ever walk into a school.

We don’t learn by getting things right, we learn by getting things wrong, and really understanding what was wrong in the action.

This, of course, implies that we are acting in the world, not separated out from it and afraid of interacting. I simply cannot tell you the number of times I’ve made a cultural screw-up in some country or another. Most are laughable; some have been quite serious.

Don’t hold back from your experiences because you might make a mistake. Fully engage in life… so that you CAN make some good mistakes!




* I expect to hear from a few of you over my use of the word “punish”…


All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.


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One Response to Monday, 25 April 2011

  1. Karen says:

    Afraid to make mistakes. Perfectionism. Fear of failure. The paralysis of analysis. I’ve been conscious of and studying these ideas for the last ten years. I was just afflicted with them before that.

    I shut down after being fired for the first time two years ago–cause was stated as insecurity and too much going on in my personal life to perform the job. Yet I also moved into the community that asked me not to lead that trip for them, and I’ve since been invited to lead international trips with them again. But I haven’t gone. I’ve finally settled on an interpretation of those events as that door closing. It marked the end of a decade-long career as an experiential educator and the end of a six-year relationship shortly afterward.

    So this dovetails nicely into next week’s Moment. Not only was I unable to accept failure, but I was also self-punishing. Thought I have grieved a lot, in some ways I am still unable to grieve these changes–evidenced by an unwillingness or inability to move on.

    Time to remind myself that there are other options–like compassion and trying again.

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