While it is obvious that one should learn from their own mistakes, I find it rare that people actively try to learn from other’s mistakes. In fact, I find that people do the exact opposite and think or try to reason to themselves that they are immune from making such mistakes or already know how to avoid such mistakes.
Two ways to learn from other’s mistakes, and therefore avoid them yourself are to learn from mistakes you see people make, such as when someone you know gets a disease because of their diet, or to learn from mistakes you hear about, such as historical mistakes or mistakes made in films and books.
Learning from mistakes you witness tends to be much easier since you feel more impact from the first hand evidence. However some people actually have trouble handling that impact and avoid dealing with the issue or processing the mistake that was made. This allows them to make the same mistake out of avoiding pain and truth.
Learning from second hand sources about what not to do is often harder as many people do not believe that they can make such mistakes, or that they know how to avoid or deal with them. This mistaken philosophy generally is attributed to confidence:
“What could possibly go wrong”
This is an “argument from ignorance”, “argument from personal incredulity”, divine fallacy, or “appeal to common sense”. This is a fallacy because even if you can’t think of how something can go wrong, you can always have missed something.
Whenever you learn about history, especially about wars, you should always ask yourself why these horrible things were allowed to happen. History is not just theory about dead people who don’t matter anymore, it’s about understanding how and why we are able to exercise these freedoms and have these issues now. It is every citizen’s responsibility to vote in elections to keep the government efficient, honest, and serving the best interests of everyone without doing harm to others. When people allow people to take power and misuse it, totalitarian states, massacres and wars happen.
What you should learn from history is that governments and companies cannot be trusted and need to be regulated, that the media can be manipulated or even choose to lie to you or present the truth in a way that will make you think what they want.
Books, Films, and Fiction
What you should learn from stories is why the antagonist is “bad”, what motivates them, and why they fail, if any of those things happen. Good stories generally have a deeper message about some kind of philosophy. To simplify this, it could be about the problems with arrogance, inaction, faith, revenge, racism, or any other number of philosophical, political, or otherwise human ideas.
Learn from other’s mistakes.