Personally, I think that in terms of historical mistakes on a massive level, we don’t look back enough. Especially in America, where we are more or less coined (in some aspects) as innovators who strive and push to challenge boundaries — and really every country does it to some extent (I think?). When notoriety and macro-advancement are at stake, I think that a lot of people would look only towards the benefits of the future, while the failures of the past seem to escape their memories. War tactics, political movements and strategies, and economic decisions all reflect this inability to examine past mistakes and what actually made them mistakes in the first place. I hate to get political (well not really, but just know that this is only my opinion), but I think that Vietnam vs the Iraq war is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. And I’ll explain this in the broadest of terms (please know that I don’t have extensive warfare knowledge and that this is all from my point of view based off what I know): Vietnam and Iraq are both foreign areas to United States military personnel in a way different than just “mysterious” customs. Both areas host a variety of different landscapes and certainly a different way of protecting themselves in times of war. Tactically, both countries had the home-field advantage, even if they lacked the technological advantage. This, along with their “guerrilla warfare” tactics, proved devastating to American troops as they were able to hide within their territory effectively, forcing our military to scramble to find the actual “enemy”, vs avoiding bystanders. This resulted in a lack of target, because, well, where were they? And if Vietnam wasn’t enough of a distaster both politically and militarily, history decided to try it again in Iraq, where the aforementioned conditions were virtually the same, only moved to a different area. If you listen to veterans of Iraq talk about their experience, many will say that they didn’t know what they were aiming at (and thus shot anything that moved, really), and didn’t exactly know what they were fighting for or who their target was supposed to be. Maybe a look back into history would have helped American military leaders prepare better for the circumstances?
Aaaand on that note (don’t chew my head off if I got something wrong, I was trying to stick to what I know…><), I’ll discuss more of personal choices to either look to the future or the past.
I personally look towards the past, probably a lot more than I really should. Why? Because, that’s the way I am. I wish I could look into the future more. But anyway, not the point. Upon reflection, I’ve realized that looking to the past has both its negative and positive attributes.
Negative: This may seem obvious. Dwelling on the past prevents consideration for the future. I’m told all too often to not let things get to me, and that it was “a year ago”, etc etc. Which is true (even though it annoys the hell out of me). Worrying about the past and what happened that year ago often makes me stumble upon decisions for the now and the future.What if this happens again, what if I make this mistake again, what if what if? It leads to unnecessary caution, and I certainly believe that it’s prevented a lot of risk-taking but rewarding opportunities for me.
Positive: Then again, having an awareness of the past can be helpful (but in moderation). Last time I made oatmeal, I put in too much water; this time, I’ll use less. “Learning from mistakes”, though cliche as it may be, is an appropriate phrase to live by. Mistakes are essential (I know, another cliche…), but are irrelevant if you aren’t willing to reflect on them for future decisions. Not dwelling, but recognizing, past events, mistakes and experiences can help you to move along life more productively, easily, and happily. Taking risks is certainly an attribute I envy in people. What I don’t envy is when someone sticks a fork into a socket and screams “THAT FUCKING HURT”, only to do it again mere minutes later and complain about the pain. I know I know, bad example, but you get the point. Don’t do something again you know will be unpleasant and painful (but not just painful, some people like that…), because chances are you’re going to hate it just as much the second time around. Just sayin’.