Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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In most societies—built on strong beliefs in an independent, separate self—mistakes are viewed as a diminishment, flaws in a grand, arrogant, and highly deceptive egocentric image. And when mistakes are made, every effort devolves into trying to spin, hide, or deny. Creativity becomes imprisoned in tiny cells of "politically correct," the status quo, and mistaken safety.

However, as every scientist soon discovers and every wise philosopher instinctively knows, without multiple mistakes, little progress develops. Only by using the bravery to try something new and the honest awareness to see clearly the consequences can authentic insight evolve. Without at least semi-egoless perception, creativity remains shackled in a straight jacket of a soul-selling need for approval that leads to putting what society values and admires over our authentic realizations and creative action.

Smart people learn from their mistakes. Smarter people learn from other people's mistakes. The smartest learn from smart people's mistakes. The smartest people are wise because they have learned from the most mistakes, their own and others.

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Quotes (61)

“Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

Themes: Crime Mistakes

43. No Effort, No Trace

“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

Themes: Mistakes

67. Three Treasures

“Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE via Lionel Giles and James Clavell
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

Themes: Mistakes

“Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.”

Antisthenes 445 – 365 BCE
Creator of a religious tradition without religion

Themes: Mistakes

“Learn from the mistakes of others…you can’t live long enough to make them all yourselves.”

Chandragupta Maurya 340 – 297 BCE
Ashoka’s grandfather, founder of the Maurya Empire

Themes: Mistakes

“Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.”

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

Themes: Mistakes

“This is our big mistake: to think we look forward to death. Most of death is already gone. Whatever time has passed is owned by death.”

Seneca ˈsɛnɪkə 4 BCE – 65 CE
(Lucius Annaeus)

“To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.”

Plutarch 46 – 120 CE
(Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus)

Themes: Mistakes

43. No Effort, No Trace

“When the bottom is filled with rubbish, just walk though the sludge.”

Hóngzhì Zhēngjué 宏智正覺 1091 – 1157 CE

Themes: Mistakes

58. Goals Without Means

“And who understands? Not me, because if I did I would forgive it all.”

John Donne 1572 – 1631 CE
from Songs and Sonnets

Themes: Mistakes

54. Planting Well

“I made every mistake that can be made but I just kept pushing.”

René Descartes 1596 – 1650 CE

43. No Effort, No Trace

“The wise try to hide their mistakes while fools boast of them.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, #126
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Mistakes

“Study people as deeply as you study books and you won't make painful mistakes about character. (chapter 157)”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Shan Dao
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Strategy Mistakes

“Do not make much ado about nothing… Troublesome things should not be taken too seriously… It is preposterous to take to heart what should be thrown over your shoulders.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE

Themes: Mistakes

63. Easy as Hard

“It is only of little known people that the failings are little known.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #125
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Mistakes

“No one should be ashamed to admit they are wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that they are wiser today than they were yesterday.”

Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 CE
Second most quoted English writer

Themes: Mistakes

“A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Poor Richard's Almanack

Themes: Mistakes

9. Know When to Stop

“Life is but a series of misunderstandings.”

Diderot 1713 – 1784 CE

Themes: Mistakes

“Use unfortunate events to polish oneself, to find increase within reduction, to change a faulty beginning into a blameless end.”

Liu Yiming 刘一明 1734 – 1821 CE via Thomas Cleary, Shan Dao, #42 Increase
(Liu I-ming)
from Taoist I Ching, , Zhouyi chanzhen 周易闡真

“He who thinks and thinks for himself, will always have a claim to thanks… If it is right, it will serve as a guide to direct; if wrong, as a beacon to warn.”

Jeremy Bentham 1748 – 1832 CE
from Principles of Morals and Legislation

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE

Themes: Mistakes

“Oh would some Power the gift give us, to see ourselves as others see us. It would save us from many mistakes and foolish thoughts.”

Robert Burns 1759 – 1796 CE
from To a Louse

“Do not be embarrassed by your mistakes. Nothing can teach us better than our understanding of them. This is one of the best ways of self-education.”

Thomas Carlyle 1795 – 1881 CE
"Great Man” theory of history creator

“One of the mistakes most often committed—and which are the sources of the greatest practical errors in human affairs—is that of supposing that the same name always stands for the same aggregation of ideas.”

John Stuart Mill 1806 – 1873 CE

“I am past scorching; not easily can you scorch a scar.”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

Themes: Mistakes

47. Effortless Success

“you must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame; how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

Themes: Mistakes

27. No Trace

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Twilight of the Idols

Themes: Music Mistakes

27. No Trace

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work… Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”

Thomas Edison 1847 – 1931 CE
America's greatest inventor

Themes: Mistakes Failure

“Experience is simply the name we give to our mistakes.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE

Themes: Mistakes

“The only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE
from Picture of Dorian Gray

Themes: Mistakes

“Constant effort and frequent mistakes are the stepping stones to genius.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE

Themes: Mistakes

43. No Effort, No Trace

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE

Themes: Mistakes

47. Effortless Success

“From error to error one discovers the entire truth.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE

Themes: Mistakes

“Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.”

Nikola Tesla Никола Тесла 1856 – 1943 CE

Themes: Mistakes Virtue

“I never made a mistake in my life; at least, never one that I couldn't explain away afterwards.”

Rudyard Kipling 1865 – 1936 CE
Greatest—in-English—short-story writer

from Under The Deodars

Themes: Mistakes

“Not the least of what I have learned has come from my errors and defeats.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Themes: Mistakes

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Mistakes

“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Ulysses

Themes: Mistakes

“It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

Franklin Roosevelt 1882 – 1945 CE
Champion and creator of a more just and equitable society

Themes: Failure Mistakes

“A stumbling block to the pessimist is a stepping-stone to the optimist.”

Eleanor Roosevelt 1884 – 1962 CE

23. Nothing and Not

“Forget mistakes. Forget failure. Forget everything except what you're going to do now and do it.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE

13. Honor and Disgrace

“If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889 – 1951 CE
One of the world's most famous philosophers

Themes: Mistakes

“On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Mistakes

79. No Demands

“Mistakes are great, the more I make the smarter I get.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

Themes: Mistakes

43. No Effort, No Trace

“Sometimes it is more important to discover what one cannot do, than what one can do.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE

Themes: Mistakes

“Humans beings always do the most intelligent thing… after they’ve tried every stupid alternative and none of them have worked.”

Buckminster Fuller 1895 – 1983 CE

Themes: Mistakes

“Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don't freeze up.”

Thomas Wolfe 1900 – 1938 CE
(Thomas Clayton Wolfe)
Father of autobiographical fiction

“People make mistakes in life through believing too much, but they have a damned dull time if they believe too little.”

James Hilton 1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

Themes: Mistakes Belief

71. Sick of Sickness
58. Goals Without Means

“Our aim as scientists is objective truth; more truth, more interesting truth, more intelligible truth. We cannot reasonably aim at certainty. Once we realize that human knowledge is fallible, we realize also that we can never be completely certain that we have not made a mistake.”

Karl Popper 1902 – 1994 CE
Major Philosopher of Science
from In Search of a Better World (1984)

Themes: Science Mistakes

“Buddha is always helping you. But usually we refuse Buddha’s offer. For instance,sometimes you ask for something special. This means that you are refusing to accept the treasures you already have.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE

Themes: Mistakes

20. Unconventional Mind

“Even in wrong practice, when you realize it and continue, there is right practice.”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE via Trudy Dixon
from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Themes: Mistakes

“It’s always easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission.”

Grace Hopper 1906 – 1992 CE
(Grace Brewster Murray Hopper )

Themes: Mistakes

“There is nothing better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve the next time.”

Malcolm X الحاجّ مالك الشباز‎‎ 1925 – 1965 CE

Themes: Mistakes

“Every American wants MORE MORE of the world… But the mistake made in America is persons accumulate more more dead matter… at the expense of what really counts… You own twice as much rug if you're twice as aware of the rug.”

Allen Ginsberg 1926 – 1997 CE

46. Enough

“One thing about pioneers that you don’t hear mentioned is that they are invariably, by their nature, mess-makers.”

Robert M. Pirsig 1928 – 2017 CE
from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

“Smart people learn from their mistakes. Smarter people learn from other people’s mistakes. The smartest people learn from smart people’s mistakes. And the smartest people are the smartest people because they have learned from the most mistakes.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Mistakes

“And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”

Leonard Cohen 1934 – 2016 CE
from Hallelujah

Themes: Mistakes

“A mistake is only an error, it becomes a mistake when you fail to correct it.”

John Lennon 1940 – 1980 CE

Themes: Mistakes

“The fastest way to become successful is to make lots of mistakes.”

Paulo Lugari 1944 CE – via Alan Weisman

Themes: Success Mistakes

43. No Effort, No Trace

“If you keep making the same mistake long enough, it becomes your style.”

John Prine 1946 CE –

Themes: Mistakes

Comments (1)

  1. Shan Dao
    Shan Dao 9 months ago
    Smart people learn from their mistakes. Smarter people learn from other people's mistakes. The smartest learn from smart people's mistakes. The smartest people are wise because they have learned from the most mistakes—their own and others'.