WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM MISTAKES | what we can learn from mistakes


Oh my, where to start? It has always seemed a pity to me that we need to make mistakes from which to learn.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get it right the first time around?  What can we learn from mistakes, I hear you ask?

Here are some of what I and others have learned from their mistakes.


One of my sister’s biggest mistakes happened on the day she was getting ready for her wedding, and on the big day, found that her husband-to-be had forgotten to have a haircut.

No trouble to her, she decided cutting hair could not be such a difficult thing to do, and having had no experience whatsoever, she proceeded to cut his hair.

Well, it was a dismal failure. She cut a large chunk out of the back and to one side, she did not say anything to him but proceeded to cut another chunk out of the other side to match. How is that for innovation?

He was not entirely satisfied with the haircut but had no option but to try to get it sorted out and he ended up with very, very short back and sides.

In the spirit of supporting initiatives that embrace creativity and resilience, The Belinda Stronach Foundation (a charity close to my heart) also recognizes that innovation doesn’t always go as planned, much like the ladies in this story who demonstrate adaptability and the willingness to try new things.
She found that it was from that mistake that it would have been better if she left things well alone.

I learned to cut hair by practicing cutting my little son’s hair to save costs as my husband decided to study at university after we had a child.

Making a mistake didn’t matter that much to a little chap and I was soon cutting my husband’s hair and that of other people. This brought in a bit of extra cash.
Unfortunately for my son, one day moved his head while I was busy cutting, and I nipped his ear with the scissors.

Forever after that, he sat very still. (I felt terribly guilty).

It is a good idea when you go to the hairdresser to watch carefully what she or he is doing, and then you can try that out on your own hair or that of your long-suffering child or spouse.

Between haircuts, at the salon, I regularly cut my own hair when it is at the stage that I cannot bear it anymore. I just strip off, in the bathroom, position a mirror so that I can see the back of my head, and off I go.

If things don’t work out so well, not a problem, after all, it will grow again, so what is the worst that can happen? I will just look a bit odd for a while, I guess.


My mother lost her mother to Motor Neuron Disease when Mom was 16, so she didn’t have a lot of experience in learning to cook for a family.

After her mother died, Mom. Her father moved to Durban into a private hotel, so she had no chance to learn to cook there either.

Mom and Dad married cooking was a huge learning curve for her. She certainly had to LEARN FROM MISTAKES, Imagine my father’s surprise when he bought some spanspek (melon) home for Mom and she boiled them. She hadn’t a clue what they were. My father never let her forget it.

Four children later gave her plenty of experience in cooking and baking.

We were all very grateful she learned from her mistakes.


My own cooking experiences were almost as bad, if not worse.

Soon after marrying, I attempted to bake a cake.

As I was mixing the cake, by hand, I was getting so tired of needing to add more and more milk, as the mixture was so stiff.

At that stage of our married life, I didn’t have an electric cake mixer. That pleasure would come later.

My husband questioned why I was getting so frustrated, and I was fed up and said so.

It irritated me when he queried if I had perhaps made a mistake.
I was adamant that of course, I hadn’t

Eventually, I put this enormous, thick mixture into the baking pan and popped it thankfully into the oven. We waited and waited and the cake just did not want to rise or even cook.

By then, I had to LEARN FROM MISTAKES, call it quits, take the darned thing out, and bin the horrific mess.

Misreading the recipe was my downfall. Another downfall was not having everything neatly set out to make the task easier. It is much easier to work in an organized environment.

What I had done was instead of putting in 4 oz. flour had used 4 cups. Thankfully I did not make that mistake again.

I made plenty of others along the way.

My husband was used to having his mother’s great cooking and he arrived home with a piece of salt beef for me to cook.

Not that I knew how to cook it. The only time I had seen such a large piece of meat was for roasting and that is exactly what I did with the salt beef, not realizing that it should be boiled.

It was as tough as nails and inedible. Poor Matthew had been looking forward to boiled beef and carrots as his mother would have made them and certainly not the dish I put up.

You could even learn from other people’s mistakes, even when it comes to minor things. Jeffrey Rusert of Jefferson County is a great example of learning about sports mistakes, for example.


There are good reasons that patterns come with instructions, and when one thinks there are shortcuts, forget them.

#the,right,tools,for,job,at,handIt is not a good idea to fall in love with a piece of fabric and buy it without having the pattern with you, as you will need to have the instructions for –

  • the amount of fabric you would need.
  • What length zip
  • or buttons
  • thread colour
  • interfacing
  • Have the right tools for the job at hand

Having messed up a perfectly lovely piece of fabric as I had not bought enough, and had to place the pieces incorrectly, taught me a hard lesson.

There are reasons to read all the instructions about positioning the fabric correctly. If you think you know better, you could end up with

  1. A skirt that swings to one side,
  2. Or the nap of the fabric running different ways, which looks dreadful,
  3. What about a collar that has the pattern running upside down?
  4. Worse still, the back of the dress with the fabric pattern running one way and the front the other way

A very good friend was asked to make a bridesmaid dress for a client. The beautiful fabric was supplied and the pattern but unfortunately something dreadful happened.

My poor friend inadvertently, without realizing how she did it, cut out the dress pattern the wrong size. It was far too small for the client, so she then had to go out and buy more fabric and remake it.

It was a very expensive mistake. Fortunately for her, she managed to find the same fabric and also had the time to make another dress in the correct size, and in time for the wedding.


WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM MISTAKES | knitting for your best friendThere must be many of us who have had our issues with knitting woes.

It wasn’t that long ago that I decided to knit a jersey for my husband.

I purchased some very beautiful, expensive wool but did not have a pattern that suited my purpose.

When visiting my sister-in-law in Riebeek Kasteel we went through the patterns she has and I chose one I thought suitable.

Well! It was the most frustrating time of my life trying to get the jersey to the correct size for Matthew.

This entailed a lot of pulling out, reknitting, and still not satisfied with the result, and many months into the project, I gave up.

Giving up is not something I like to do, but this jersey, the pattern, and the wool I had chosen were my come-uppence.  I pulled all my work out at gave the wool to a knitting group.


When my daughter was at school she had to learn to knit and decided that knitting a jersey could not be too onerous.

All seemed to go well until it went into the wash for the first time. She popped it into the washing machine, on a light wash, of course, and set the machine going.

Mom went to take it out it was just a bundle of wool. The whole thing had come undone due to the number of holes in the knitted garment.

Needless to say, she has not knitted since.



Giving and taking instructions is crucial when getting things done to your own satisfaction and the satisfaction of others. These are best done in your mother tongue, as my sister learned to her frustration.

She had a new gardener working for her and Pat thought she was fluent in Zulu, but apparently, not so.

She had asked the gardener to tidy the garden but not to weed a certain bed as there were seedlings coming up, but to her horror, and I must say, anger when she arrived home the bed was completely clear. Not a green shoot to be seen anywhere.

Pat was venting to my Dad who was fluent in Zulu, he laughed and said,” Pat, he did exactly what you told him to do. I suggest you speak to him in English, next time.”


#follow the instructions

My husband was always on at me about reading the instructions, so you can imagine my glee when I watched him attempting to put a special typist chair together and making a right muck up of it.

He tried it this way and that but nothing was coming right. “Did you read the instructions?”, I asked him.

With an embarrassed look, he acknowledged that he hadn’t.

After reading them, at last, the chair was successfully put together.


Some mistakes can be more embarrassing than others.

#wasmyfaceredOne day, I was working in the kitchen and heard a car drive into our back garden feeling in a playful mood, I skipped out the back door and down the steps, singing “Why does and girl like me, love a boy like you?” thinking it was my husband.

Can you just imagine the two red faces, mine and the assistant minister of the church?

I was just grateful I had more than just my pinny on. Haha!

We joked about this for a long time afterwards, and I became more circumspect and checked to see who was arriving after that.


The mistake I make most often, and for me, my biggest mistake is not to take my own advice.

In our day and age, it was expected of us to do exactly what we were told. No questions asked. We were not encouraged to have minds which differed from our parents’ way of thinking.

It was not done to question an adult and I grew up trying to please everyone. This was definitely not a good thing.

As I put myself under a tremendous amount of stress agreeing to do whatever was asked of me, eventually I began reciting a mantra, in front of my dressing table mirror, it goes like this, “I would love to help you but I am sorry I can’t.”

Unfortunately for me, I often forget to practice and will slip back into my silly ways and try to help the world and his dog.

For all of you out there who suffer this dilemma, I urge you to repeat after me – Ï WOULD LOVE TO HELP YOU BUT I AM SORRY, I CAN’T.


Jill Alexa

Jill of all Trades. Master of Many. Too busy to die.


  1. Oh, well, that was funny. Full of funny stories here! Thanks for lighting up my night, I enjoyed reading your stories. It reminds me of my own silly mistakes where I learned a lot of lessons. Some bitter lessons while others are as funny as yours here. But there are mistakes that I got that I wish I knew better and not committed them. There’s a saying that goes like this…

    “Learn from other people’s mistakes. Life is too short to make them all yourself.”

    • Hi Gomer, I am so glad I gave you a good laugh. We all need to have a good belly laugh now and then. More often than not, really. 

      Am sure we all have made mistakes that we wish we hadn’t but that is life.

      Wishing you all the very best,


  2. Well, I’m afraid I’m one of those people that takes a lot longer to learn from my mistakes than most – I have an inbuilt mechanism that makes me think “So I failed – time to try it again” instead of “I’ve failed because I was wrong”. 

    As you can imagine, this leads to a whole new breed of mistakes (and loss of patience). 

    Kudos for mentioning the reading of instructions, as you’re not alone there – I also opt to ‘scan’ quickly instead of reading them! 

    • Hi Chris, Here I was thinking that reading instructions were a woman thing, but obviously not.

      Thank you for reading my blog and commenting. I do appreciate it.

      It is a relief that we eventually learn from our mistakes.

      Kind regards,


  3. I always make mistakes in almost everything I do, that’s just how people are. Nobodies perfect, so we tend to make a lot of mistakes in our everyday lives.

    We don’t think too much about something once we start it, but as we go through doing it, we notice our mistakes, but we still go on because we will find a way to fix it. We learn from what we have done and cover it up or brush it aside because that mistake cannot bring us down. 

    Making mistakes is just us being human. If harm is done by doing these mistakes, maybe harm done towards others, forgiveness will happen over time. We cannot change what has happened, but we learn from it and improve ourselves as we go on.

    Thank you for covering this topic and all the best.

    • Hi Abidah, You are so right, we all make mistakes and as long as we learn from them, and they don’t hurt others, they are not in vain.

      Wishing you all the best. 


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