Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself."
Reading books, papers, and blogs about business, parenting, cooking, loving, whatever it is that interests us, gives us models for working, relationships, and being in the world. We read about mistakes people have made and how they resolved them, sometimes recognizing situations that feel familiar.
A friend, Leah, just wrote a blog about Emma Goldman and other books she was reading. She said that she was especially impressed with the fact that Emma changed her life dramatically, twice, when she realized that she'd made mistakes. Our lives are not written in stone. We can adjust them, should adjust them as we go along, gain new information and experience. My sister in law's boss has said "I reserve the right to get smarter later." I love that attitude.
Mistakes are great teachers. We learn what doesn't work. When we're young we tend to want to do everything our own way; we don't like to follow advice from parents or those in authority. Sometimes we really screw up. But eventually we learn that we can benefit from the experience of others, avoiding pitfalls, choosing other paths.
Putting ourselves in community increases the opportunities we have to learn from each other. The exchange of ideas, of hearing what has turned out well for someone, what has led to disaster or disappointment, gives us some advantage as we struggle to figure out the lives we live. Our shared stories of joy and failure strengthen us all.