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Sometimes it makes sense to learn from our mistakes… maybe all the time. But sometimes bad things happen… and they aren’t mistakes, just bad outcomes. Anytime we take some measure of risk, however modest, and mix it with a quantity of real life, we may encounter bad outcomes. I loan my car to someone—he might not smash it up, but he might. I tell a joke to a colleague—she might think it’s funny, but she might think I just wasted 44 seconds of her time. Was it really a mistake to tell that joke? Or loan out the car? Or, was it just a calculated risk that produced a bit of a disappointment? (The car thing turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me, but that’s another post!)

I recently read a newspaper article about a man lost in the woods. He had walked a short distance into the vast north woods, then followed a bird a bit further, and, before long, had gotten lost. After many scary and frigid hours, he was found by concerned friends.

But I wanted to know the end of the story. Would he stay away from the woods? Would he give up his outdoor hobbies and let his world get smaller? The article ends with the man saying “…I’ve been dreaming about that every night, and I’ve got to go up there… I’m going to confront my fears.” Standing ovation!

The safe thing to do in life is to hunker down where it’s safe, just take cover… stop the joking, keep the car keys, just stay out of the woods. But at what cost?