#3 – mistakes, I had a few

A readers of this newsletter asked me to write beyond the work environment.

I shall pleasure her.

This week I will write about the mistakes I have made in life and I expect to be done in 500 words or so.

But first, a detour.

This week, someone on the plane I was on had a seizure. I did not see this person which was worse because it made me wonder how bad it was. When I was a Christian, I could pray for this person. Now I could not. I thought of sending my positive thoughts toward this person but then I realized this was not something I believe in. How did it land in my head, I wonder? I wished this person well and felt powerless. “But powerless is ok,” I said to no one in particular. In a random and messy world, we are often powerless.

I need to understand this but not let it destroy me.

Back to normal programming.

What is a mistake? I don’t see mistakes and errors the same way. Both refer to wrong acts committed but a mistake is something you would not care to repeat while some errors are hard to avoid and need to be made for the sake of progress. For example, if a reliable friend told you about a good restaurant which turned out to be a dud, you would not have made a mistake going there but an error. A reliable friend is not always right and it would still be more optimal in the overall scheme of things if you follow his/her advice the next time.

A mistake however is to think that a reliable friend is always right.

At a basic level, some mistakes are easily identifiable. For example, my favorite breakfast in Tokyo is an onigiri and a coffee jelly. I once had 2 onigiri and a coffee jelly. Clearly, that was a mistake.

The most obvious mistake I have made in life is being cruel and making people feel bad about themselves. When I was about 18, I was very irritated with two people in front of me talking in a Christian meeting. So when it was time to pray, I prayed with them and in my prayer, I chastised them for talking. It was incredibly cruel and manipulative. In my relationship, I was withdrawn and refused to talk whenever I was hurt and confused. This makes the other party feel bad.

Nowadays, my solitary life allows less opportunities for me to be cruel. But sometimes, all it takes is a single word to transgress. If I have been cruel and careless, please please let me know.

Another obvious mistake is hypocrisy. Telling people to do things I myself did not do. So a few years ago, I told myself to stop preaching and giving advice. I sometimes still lapse into it, especially when I am frustrated and impatient. When I am having difficulty running my own life, why should I be telling others how to live theirs?

I have tried to play it safe. I should risk more. Fail more. It’s a mistake not to fail enough. This newsletter is an experiment to try more things and do more. But it isn’t enough.

Experimenting is sometimes like traveling. You end up taking the wrong road, visiting the wrong attraction, eating the wrong food. You could play to safe by doing tons of research and doing tried and tested things but it will be a different kind of experience. In traveling and in life, “not going to plan” can be a very rewarding experience.

Next week I will continue to write about my mistakes where it’s a lot more ambiguous. These will be errors but whether they were mistakes, I am not so sure. Even as I would have know the outcome, I would possibly repeat some of these errors. Life should not be always sweet and straightforward.

Thank you for reading.

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