Experience and bad judgment

A quote I’ve shared a few times over the years is “Success comes from good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”

There are a few reasons for its resonance. First, it points to the importance of thinking long term. Success – the kind that is both meaningful and enduring – is built on the foundations of good judgment. And, good judgment takes time to build.

Second, without pointing to it, it reminds me of the importance of thinking about success beyond the narrow scope of our careers. It is on us to define what success is. However, regardless of how we define it, we’re going to need good judgment.

Finally, it speaks to the importance of the school of hard knocks. There are folks who say we only ever truly learn when we make mistakes. I don’t think that is true. I think it is possible to learn from success as long as we prioritize doing so. But, our hardest won lessons often come from mistakes we’ve made.

That’s because mistakes hurt. They have a way of punching us in the gut. That pain inspires learning.

It is tempting to attempt to avoid mistakes. But, that’s wasted energy. It isn’t how life works.

If we’re experimenting by stepping out of our comfort zone, we will make mistakes. It is better instead to figure out how we can soak the learning from mistakes and avoid repeating them.

That process of reflecting on our mistakes, soaking the learning, attempting to respond constructively and correctively is how we gain experience.

It is how our judgment gets made.