Wisdom ≠ Perfection

“A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.”
- Roy H. Williams

When I first came across this quote, as a younger version of myself, I felt inspired and pressured at the same time. Inspired to see every experience as one that I can learn from. Pressured to avoid mistakes, lest I become excluded from the ‘smart man’ or ‘wise man’ club altogether.

Now, I can appreciate the wisdom in this quote whilst also raising a few questions:

  • So, what does a smart woman or a wise woman do? I was going to let this one slide, then I realised this quote was not coined in the 1700s.

  • What happens if a wise person doesn't manage to avoid the mistake? The quote makes sense; it is wise to seek out the advice of someone who has ‘been there and done that’. However, the wisest people will also make mistakes, even when they know better. Because that’s life. We are not perfect.

Perhaps we could imagine a couple more verses.

“But if said wise person screws up, they might feel frustrated with themselves and talk about it with someone who will validate their feelings. They may even have to apologise for stuffing up.

Then, the wise person could self-reflect, reassess and decide on whether they want to try again or not. 

They also know that having made this mistake does not relegate them to the category of, ‘Idiots who didn't learn from the smart man.'"

If you're reading this, you're probably a perfectionist who beats yourself up way too much. Stop it. You will be idiotic and you will fail before and while you make progress. But, making mistakes doesn't make you an idiot or a failure.