The Importance of Admitting a Big Mistake

Eliezer hits it on the head again:

After I had finally and fully admitted my mistake, I looked back upon the path that had led me to my Awful Realization.  And I saw that I had made a series of small concessions, minimal concessions, grudgingly conceding each millimeter of ground, realizing as little as possible of my mistake on each occasion, admitting failure only in small tolerable nibbles.  I could have moved so much faster, I realized, if I had simply screamed "OOPS!" 

And I thought:  I must raise the level of my game.

There is a powerful advantage to admitting you have made a large mistake.  It’s painful.  It can also change your whole life.

It is important to have the watershed moment, the moment of humbling realization.  To acknowledge a fundamental problem, not divide it into palatable bite-size mistakes.

Do not indulge in drama and become proud of admitting errors. It is surely superior to get it right the first time.  But if you do make an error, better by far to see it all at once.  Even hedonically, it is better to take one large loss than many small ones.  The alternative is stretching out the battle with yourself over years.  The alternative is Enron.

4 Responses to The Importance of Admitting a Big Mistake

  1. Chris Yeh says:

    There is tremendous power in falling back from an undefensible position.

    In war, trying to hold on to territory that can’t be held is one of the best ways to lose.

    Pull back to where your defenses are strong, and you will have powerful base from which to counterattack when the time is right.

  2. “Surrender to the truth as quickly as you can. Do this the instant you realize what you are resisting; the instant you can see from which quarter the winds of evidence are blowing against you. Be faithless to your cause and betray it to a stronger enemy.”

    Said of the third virtue, lightness.

  3. mike S says:

    Timely post. This example is from sports – but it applies. See the 3rd paragraph, Sportsmanship:

    Love the quote from Eliezer, too.

  4. Making mistakes is the only way we learn, and being able to admit that you make the mistake is half the battle.


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