2012-12-31

Never Be Afraid Of Making A Mistake

Belaboring this point undermines it, so I will be as brief as possible.

Robert Murphy lost a bet with David Hendersen. The reason everyone is talking about it is because Brad DeLong decided to make sour grapes of it.

But there are no sour grapes for Robert Murphy. He writes five points about the bet this morning on his blog, and the number one point was: "I screwed up." Before writing that post, he also elected to make a few self-effacing jokes, including one at DeLong's blog, and one on his own Facebook page.

For Henderson's part, he writes:
I have the following 3 goals in betting about economics, not necessarily in order of importance: (1) to test my own understanding, (2) to cause the person on the other side to reconsider his beliefs, and (3) to have fun and make money. In this case, I think I've achieved all 3.
There is plenty for laymen like me to learn when two extremely intelligent economists disagree, take a bet, and offer insight into what they think happened. But what we should really learn from this bet is that extremely talented people can and do make mistakes - in fact, they make them all the time, and in many cases, publicly. It's humbling, but it's not bad.

There's nothing wrong with making mistakes. How many failed inventions did Thomas Edison attempt? How many times did Isaac Newton attempt to prove the Fundamental Theorem before he finally succeeded? How many Olympians have won every single race they ever competed in?

Mistakes, failures, unproductive ventures, and so on... these are all the product of a life lived productively. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It's easy for many of us to spend our whole lives on the sidelines, never attempting much of anything, never taking a risk, never taking a chance, always playing it safe and keeping our mouths shut in fear of saying something that doesn't pan out the way we thought it would.

But, in the spirit of New Year's Resolutions, I hope that all my readers understand that nobody - no matter how intelligent or talented they may be - bats 1.000. Nobody does everything right, all the time. Life isn't about avoiding mistakes, it's about learning from them.

Life your 2013 - and your whole life - with integrity and intellectual courage.