Back in the 19th century, there was a profoundly cool, albeit rather eccentric man – (a Ger-man!) – by the name of Friedrich Nietzsche.
While he has since been sadly misunderstood by many, Nietzsche is generally considered one of the all-time greatest Western philosophers.
You might know him by this one catchy little omni-quoted paraphrase:
"That which does not kill us only makes us stronger".
This one quote is all over the place. But most often heard in situations where someone needs to give themselves or someone else a little pepping-up.
One might argue that the saying has been watered down. After all, if Kelly Clarkson AND Kanye West have centered songs about it (presumably after having seen it in one of those "inspirational" internet pictures), perhaps it shouldn’t exactly be considered philosophy anymore.
But more important, the saying is not entirely true.
On the contrary, one might argue that if we got stronger every time something simply didn’t kill us, by far the majority of Earth’s population would be pretty fucking amazing.
… But we’re not.
An alcoholic breaks up his home and his family drinking. He loses his job and his house, and ends up on the streets. And yet, he keeps on drinking. Because his addiction is stronger than his will.
An unemployed person sends out a standardized job application to 200 companies, of which only 10 answer him, all saying that they’re not hiring at the moment. But they’ll "keep his application and let him know if anything becomes available"… Which they don’t. And as he sends out 200 more applications, he keeps wondering why they never write him back.
Ring a bell?
And, of course, aging itself will eventually stop the regeneration of our cells, slowly withering us until our bodies finally quit. Oh, and if someone chopped off my arms and legs or injected me with HIV, I’d be facing Hell, dead or not.
Fortunately, we CAN grow stronger. But as with most other things in life, WE have to do the hard work. Meaningful growth simply doesn’t happen unless we
LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES!
If you don’t learn from your mistakes, how can you expect to improve yourself??
And furthermore: Do you want to be someone who keeps making the same mistakes over and over? Of course not. Nobody does!
However, when most people mess something up, or have something bad happen to them, they pity themselves and blame circumstances rather than prevent their problem from occurring again, – or even prepare for it!
Why is this? I see a couple of possible explanations:
1) Self-pity is a comfortable and convenient source of instant gratification — and possibly attention.
2) People are afraid of the judgment that might come from being the source of their own problems. Playing the blame game is easy and comfortable because it conveniently ignores one’s own responsibility for one’s own life.
3) Both of the above are way easier than to get one’s act together and do some focused, proactive work.
When we learn from our mistakes, something funny happens:
It stops being a mistake!
Not only have you ensured it’ll never happen again, you have also improved yourself. Suddenly, it goes from being a mistake to being an improvement point.
Speaking of quotes, Thomas Edison, (although he was a complete tool who stole most of Nikola Tesla’s ideas) had this one great quote on learning from our mistakes:
"I have not failed. I’ve just found 10.000 ways that don’t work".
Just remember: There’s nobody to do it for you. It’s up to YOU to locate your improvement points, and act upon them.