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Mistakes Teach More Than Success

Success is the unrelenting prize of our culture. We will sacrifice whatever we must to avoid feeling the pain of failure. And when we do fail, our society tells us to move on as quickly as possible. But what if there's something to be gleaned from times when we do not succeed.

In the film Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal, and Greed, Joshua Rofé describes the unseen parts of Ross' fame. The painter and television personality mesmerized audiences in half hour blocks. Mountains, bushes, and rivers emerge seamlessly before our very eyes. His ideas passed effortlessly from pallet, to brush, to canvas.

But, of course, this fluidity did not imply flawlessness. Often, Ross would extend a stroke too far or lay down a color that did not match with what he had imagined. When this happened, Ross simply labeled the mistake a "happy accident" and adjusted his plan to incorporate the mistake into a masterpiece.

Near the end of the film, Steve Ross gave some insight on this topic:

It's hard to tell people their faults. It’s even harder to admit that you have made a “happy accident.” A lot of times, I've wondered if it's not your mistakes that teach you a lot more than your successes. After success, you just move on to the next thing. But when you make a mistake, or have a “happy accident,” as Bob called it, suddenly you learn all kinds of new ways to correct it. And through that learning process you really start developing in new ways.


Bob Ross; Happy Accidents, Betrayal, and Greed, Directed by Joshua Rofé, Netflix, 2021, Timestamp 1:28.40

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