Learning from our Mistakes, Or Not

How did I get here?

Why do I keep on making the same mistakes over and over again? You would think that I would have learned by now.

 When you read Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, you find yourself  laughing, not because the poem is funny. You are laughing at yourself. You feel a connection to Portia Nelson’s words. She is speaking your words. 

I certainly felt a connection with her! She clearly articulated what I was feeling.

You feel connected to the author because it takes you forever to get it right. But one day you finally get it, perhaps by then the pain is too much for even you to bear. Or perhaps you are now more self-aware. The reason doesn’t matter because you have finally learned from that particular mistake.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

by Portia Nelson

 Chapter 1

 

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost …. I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

 

Chapter 2

 

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

 

Chapter 3

 

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in … it’s a habit… but,

my eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

 

Chapter 4

 

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

 

Chapter 5

 

I walk down another street.

 

 Portia Nelson, 1920 – 2001, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk

As I write this post, and read the poem again, I notice something for the first time, and make a connection that I didn’t make before.

“…I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place…”

 The quote attributed to both Einstein and Bejamin Franklin pops into my consciousness, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting to get a different result.” We are in the same place because we simply haven’t made any changes. How can we expect a different result if we keep on doing the same thing the same way?

We no longer have to walk down that particular road in life because we have options. We can learn from your mistakes, or not, the choice is entirely ours.

What emotions does Autobiography in Five Short Chapters evoke? What lessons can we learn? What does this poem remind you of?

The first time I read this poem it moved me deeply. So much so that I secured permission to use it in my book Tales of People Who Get It.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters is from the book There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk, pp 2-3.

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