Your best teacher is your last mistake

Ralph Nader

If we aren’t making mistakes

If you truly appreciated your best teacher is your last mistake then you would welcome making them. Instead, though we feel embarrassed, ashamed of just downright incompetent. However, if we aren’t making mistakes we are definitely not taking advantage of our best teacher.

Welcoming mistakes

One of my teams was awarded the Charter Mark which was a government-led initiative to provide excellent customer serviceOne of the shifts we had to make was to welcome mistakes as key learning opportunities. This truly was embracing the notion that our best teacher is the mistakes we make.  

This was really powerful and had a number of benefits. Firstly team members learned not to feel guilty or undermined when they made a mistake. They had an opportunity to put it right and actively share the learning.

Secondly, by embracing mistakes as learning opportunities we created a healthy “no blame” culture. This was powerful and created greater trust an collaboration within the team. 

Forgiving mistakes

Learning from mistakes is not just about how to put things right It is also about personal growth.  There are two perspectives when dealing with mistakes.  Both aspects deal with forgiveness.   When mistakes are made by others which impact us, we need to learn how to forgive people.  This can be easy to do if the mistake has little impact.  But sometimes other people’s mistakes can have immense consequences.  When this is the case, forgiving the other can be hard but must be done.

Likewise, when we personally make mistakes we need to forgive ourselves.  If we don’t truly forgive ourselves then the guilt and burden can be carried around for years.  Without true forgiveness of ourselves, mistakes can impact our lives forever. 

Mistakes can be our best teacher, both by learning about doing the right thing but also building character through forgiveness.  Mistakes should never be used to beat ourselves or others up, it is simply not the right approach. 


Here at People Development Magazine we showcase a selection of our favourite quotes. We love to give a short summary of what the quote means to us. This helps to provoke your own thoughts and perceptions as the reader. We hope you enjoy them!
Click on the category to access more inspirational quotes and their meaning.