Mistakes Quotes


  • Those who make no mistakes are making the biggest mistakes of all — they are attempting nothing new.
    o Anthony de Mello, One Minute Nonsense (1992), p. 20.

  • Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.
    o Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892), Mr. Dumby, Act III.

  • After it is all over, as stupid a fellow as I am can see that mistakes were made. I notice, however, that my mistakes are never told me until it is too late.
    o Robert E. Lee, quoted in Randall Bedwell’s May I Quote You General Lee? (New York: Gramercy Books, 2002), p. 63.

  • There is no mistake; there has been no mistake; and there shall be no mistake.
    o Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Wellingtoniana (1832).

  • It is better for a leader to make a mistake in forgiving than to make a mistake in punishing.
    o Muhammad, Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1011.

  • A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals to discovery.
    o James Joyce, Ulysses (1922), ch. 9: Scylla and Charybdis.

  • Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.
    o Pearl S. Buck, What America Means to Me (1943).

  • We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.
    o Samuel Smiles, Self-Help.

  • Let go the lure
    The striving to unmake;

    Behold the truth
    Whenever heart may ache
    There is a glory
    In a great mistake.
    o Nathalia Crane, “Imperfection”, Swear By the Night and Other Poems (1936).

  • My heartache, is my mistake you see.
    o Ed Harcourt, “God Protect Your Soul”, Here Be Monsters (2001).

  • Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.
    o Al Franken, Oh, the Things I Know, 2002.

  • America is a mistake, admittedly a gigantic mistake, but a mistake nevertheless.
    o Sigmund Freud, to Ernest Jones (“Amerika ist ein Fehler, zugegeben ein gigantischer Fehler, aber nichtsdestotrotz ein Fehler”).

  • And certainly it was not wrong to try to secure freedom for our citizens held in barbaric captivity. But we did not achieve what we wished, and serious mistakes were made in trying to do so. We will get to the bottom of this, and I will take whatever action is called for.
    o Ronald Reagan, Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union, January 27th, 1987.

  • The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.
    o G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News (1924-04-19).

  • A man looking at a hippopotamus may sometimes be tempted to regard a hippopotamus as an enormous mistake; but he is also bound to confess that a fortunate inferiority prevents him personally from making such mistakes.
    o G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, Ch. 10, “The Great Dickens Characters”.

  • The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.
    o Frank Lloyd Wright, New York Times Magazine (4 October 1953); sometimes paraphrased: “A doctor can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.”

  • It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes. It may even lie on the surface; but we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions — especially selfish ones.
    o Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Peace and Violence” (1973).

  • The state sometimes makes mistakes. When one of these mistakes occurs, a decline in collective enthusiasm is reflected by a resulting quantitative decrease of the contribution of each individual, each of the elements forming the whole of the masses. Work is so paralysed that insignificant quantities are produced. It is time to make a correction.
    o Che Guevara, Man and Socialism in Cuba (1965).

  • Any military commander who is honest with himself, or with those he’s speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes in the application of military power. He’s killed people unnecessarily — his own troops or other troops — through mistakes, through errors of judgment. A hundred, or thousands, or tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand. But, he hasn’t destroyed nations. And the conventional wisdom is don’t make the same mistake twice, learn from your mistakes. And we all do. Maybe we make the same mistake three times, but hopefully not four or five. They’ll be no learning period with nuclear weapons. You make one mistake and you’re going to destroy nations.
    o Robert McNamara, The Fog of War.

  • Other kings let their ministers make their mistakes for them, but Louis insisted on making the important mistakes personally.
    o Will Cuppy, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody (1950), Part IV: A Few Greats, Louis XIV.

  • Kosa moja haliachi mke.
    o Swahili proverb; Idiomatic Translation: “One mistake isn’t reason enough to leave your wife”; Literal Meaning: A single mistake should be met with forgiveness, not condemnation.

  • It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data.
    o Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Scandal in Bohemia.

  • She had an unequalled gift, especially pen in hand, of squeezing big mistakes into small opportunities.
    o Henry James, “Greville Fane”, from The Real Thing: and Other Tales (1893).


  • Mistakes that are perceived as mistakes are often not mistakes at all.
    o Kirk Douglas.

  • There are two kinds of mistakes. There are fatal mistakes that destroy a theory; but there are also contingent ones, which are useful in testing the stability of a theory.
    o Gian-Carlo Rota.

  • You have to learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.
    o Hyman G. Rickover.

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