Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, and we have all heard the quote by Alexander Pope “to err is human.” However, in Paul J. H. Schoemaker’s Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure, the reader is implored to re-evaluate the concept of error. Schoemaker uses facts to illustrate how mistakes were actually vital in the success of many remarkable figures in history. “Most groundbreaking achievements in science, technology, economics, and the arts represent long, meandering paths of misjudgments and false turns”.
Schoemaker proposes that our mistakes can be viewed as “portals of discovery”, and he elaborates on this by giving a conceptual framework on how to learn constructively from error. He allows the reader to assess the self, and exhorts individuals to further understand their decision making process, thereby making brilliant mistakes rather than tragic mistakes.
Personally, I find Shoemaker’s perspective quite interesting. One of the first brilliant mistakes in Schoemaker’s book is the discovery of the Beatles by EMI records. George Martin went against the flow of the corporate record label and took a chance on the Beatles. Even for those people who do not like the Beatles, it is indisputable that their music affected the world and continues to effect generations of music lovers. He also speaks about Einstein and Fermi and how their errors turned out to contrarily be world-changing.
Schoemaker quotes Kierkegaard “Life can be only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”. I believe this to be true, and commend Schoemaker as he presents his argument and fosters the psychological distinctions between the different types of mistakes people make and how to learn from them. “Sometimes, committing errors is not just the fastest way to the correct answer, it’s the only way”.