It was disgusting. I rinse my mouth with coke but the taste is still there.
Pushing away the plate of raw oysters, I make a promise: I’m never eating raw oysters again.
Most of us at some point in our lives have had an experience so traumatic that we promise ourselves to never trying it again. And it makes sense because that’s how we learn. From our bad experiences, mistakes, and failures we’re taught to avoid the things we fear.
But what if I told you that fear that keeps you from harm is also what affects your opportunities in the future?
What if I told you that because you’ve become so used to listening to your fears that you’ve lost the chance at success?
I can’t believe I’m doing it. I’m holding a raw oyster, the very thing I promised never to eat again, eyes closed and ready to eat.
My friend had insisted that I go with him to one of San Francisco’s most popular oyster bars. “Look, I get that you had a bad experience,” he said, “but there has to be a reason for this restaurant’s two-hour queue.”
I didn’t want to admit it, but he was right. Hype or not, I had to try it for myself to know. So I tried it.
The oysters were fantastic. Sweet, creamy and briny, it was nothing like the raw oyster I had before. The difference was night and day, butter to skim-milk. Had I not tried oysters again at the insistence of my friend, I would’ve never realized what I was missing out on.
More often than not, we allow our bad experiences, our mistakes, and our failures to determine what we will or won’t do. We allow our fears to lead our lives, and refuse to give things another chance.
The first time I had raw oysters, I was disgusted. But how do I know that that experience wasn’t bad because of the way the chef had prepared it? How do I know that experience wasn’t bad because the oyster wasn’t as fresh as it could’ve been? It might’ve had nothing to do with the actual shellfish itself.
We can’t judge something based on one bad experience we’ve had. To do so would mean that we’re naive, incapable of giving it benefit of the doubt, and shallow in our ability to be open-minded.
One bad experience isn’t a good indication of quitting.
Ask yourself this:
Do we learn how to cook just after one failure?
Do we learn how to drive manual just after a single stall?
Do we learn how to ride a bike just after falling once?
We learn from our mistakes, but mistakes aren’t a one-time thing. They happen continuously, in different shape and forms, whether or not we want it. The repetition of those mistakes is how we learn — each time we make the same mistake, the lessons we learn from it are further ingrained in our minds until it becomes second-nature and we never make the same mistake again.
Nascar drivers who drift at neck-breaking speeds, grand chessmasters who can predict up to 10 moves ahead, an olympic athlete who breaks another world record — do you think they would’ve gotten where they were with just one failure? We see the success of many, but never the failures that lead them to that success.
It’s years of practice, persistence and failure after failure for that one moment of success to be apparent. Had any of them given up just after one bad experience, mistake or failure, we would’ve never known of them.
Many of us make decisions based on a single bad experience we’ve had, but what if it that decision affects our very future? What if because of that one experience, we’ve missed out on an entire lifetime’s worth of surprises?
Learning from our experiences is important, but what’s even more important is our ability to be open-minded, to give things another chance. If it’s not life-threatening or dangerous, what have we got to lose?
Life isn’t about looking at our past failures. Rather, it’s about using them to expand our worldview, to further grow our experiences. And if we’re able to do that, then that’s a life well-lived. A life where we’ve got nothing to lose but everything to gain.