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Ayesha's avatar

Is it possible to learn from another person's mistake?

Asked by Ayesha (6186points) October 30th, 2011

What do you think? We do learn from our own mistakes. But if a person close to us makes one, is one capable of learning from that and avoiding such a doing in the future? Or are we bound to make that mistake at some point in our lives and then be completely sure that we learned from it?

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20 Answers

aarongmoore's avatar

Yes, I think it is entirely possible to learn from the mistakes of others. Even people not close to you.

harple's avatar

As the youngest of 4 (or 6, depending how you count it) I was forever looking at my older siblings being told off for various normal teenage rebelling, and thinking to myself “I’m not going to let myself get into that position”.... And I didn’t. I was a very boring teenager though, and even now I still don’t like “doing/getting things wrong”, so maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t done my learning vicariously!

Hibernate's avatar

Yes we can but out own mistakes are much more suitable teachers. Being able to make our own mistakes might help us learn a lot more.

zensky's avatar

It’s the basic premise of every single self-help book.

marinelife's avatar

Of course we can learn from the lives of others. The gal that just won Project Runway was started on the road to being a designer by the death of her brother. She realized that he died so young he would never fulfill his dreams, and it pushed her to start to make hers a reality.

Scooby's avatar

Yes it is ,very much so…. I too was much the same as @harple but took things a lot further too as far as my siblings were concerned… I saw my siblings making the mistakes they very much regretted through wrong partner choices through to having kids they struggled to feed, let alone house, poor career choice & poor investment choices on top of all of that….. I’ve so learned from their mistakes even the bad parenting ones (I’m not a parent thankfully )….. The only downside for me is; I’m an uncle many times over with two spare bedrooms, when my siblings are at war with their kids, my house is seen as neutral ground for them to sort out their mistakes :-/ I should have moved further away Lol, that’s one lesson I neglected to learn,Lol………..

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Of course it’s possible.

Cruiser's avatar

I do….but I sincerely doubt she ever will.

Sunny2's avatar

All the time! Isn’t that how we learn to live in whatever society we inhabit?

Mariah's avatar

If you pay attention well and don’t make bad assumptions about their situations, yes.

Mariah's avatar

As an addendum to my above post, also I think you need empathy. At its most basic level, learning from our mistakes is probably our brains going, “durr…that caused pain…shouldn’t do again” and in order to glean this same lesson from someone else’s actions, you need the empathy to feel their pain.

GladysMensch's avatar

I learned to never get involved in a land war in Asia.

Coloma's avatar

Sure. What’s the saying? That no life is ever a waste if it serves as an example.
Yep, I certainly have seen a lot of less than stellar conduct that has influenced me to not replicate that behavior. I like keeping company with good karma. ;-)

john65pennington's avatar

I say no, in certain circumstances. Here is an example:

My neighbor is 39 years old and a drug addict. Her 16 year old daughter lives with her. Routinely, her mother gets “high” on whatever illegal drugs she is taking. Time after time, for a long time, her daughter attempted to get her mother off of the illegal drugs. Her daughter failed at the endeavor and started to smoke pot.

Instead of her mother being a good example for her daughter, she was just the opposite.

This is a lesson that’s had very bad results as its been passed from mother to daughter.

The daughter has told me, “if you can’t fight it, then join it”. (with her mother).

john65pennington's avatar

Ayesha, good question.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Most definitely. My grandmother programmed me well, maybe too well. I grew hearing over and over again in order to note to memory, the history of our families. There were “good” examples and there was everyone else. Each person had a story, a life lesson and I took all this to heart.

YARNLADY's avatar

@john65pennington In my family, it was cigarettes, with mixed results. My sister and I would never touch them because smoking is such a filthy, disgusting habit, but my brother started smoking when he was 16, just like our parents did. He is dying of emphysema now.

Very few of us had to get hit by a car to learn not to play in traffic, and many of our children learn not touch hot things by example, rather than getting burned. There are probably many more things we learn by example, but I can’t think of them by now.

Sunny2's avatar

Just as you can emulate good behavior, you may also choose to accept bad behavior as being okay, or as in @john65pennington‘s example. It’s too bad someone didn’t intervene before the capitulation to unfortunate behavior became a habit.
I didn’t become a smoker because I hated my parents smoking in the car where I couldn’t escape the smoke. When I was old enough to try smoking, I tried to like it. My Mom took all the joy out of it when she caught me with a crumpled lit cigarette behind my back. She said, “If you want to smoke, tell me. I’ll put an ashtray in your room.” So, since I didn’t like the way tobacco tasted and bit my tongue, and it wasn’t forbidden, I said, “Forget it.” My mom died of emphysema; not a good way to go.

perspicacious's avatar

Depends upon how smart you are.

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