Walter B. Wriston '41

Smith, Nancy


On Mistakes


The question, I suppose, is what is the definition of a mistake. Is it a mistake to start something and find out it doesn't work? The flip side of that coin is the price you pay for not trying. When Edison was trying to create a light bulb, he tried dozens of different things for a filament. The first 50 of them didn't work. But at the end of the day when he found one that did work, he had a light bulb. The goal we wished to achieve hasn't changed, the strategy hasn't changed. Did we make mistakes getting there? Sure, lots of them. The real issue is not whether you make mistakes-because that's human-but do you keep your risks within your risk-taking capabilities? If you play and bet your store, why that is dumb. We never played that game. We lost money, but the momentum was such that by the end of the day we were successful, so that with every risk there was a return. Just as with Edison's filaments, by the end of the day the light was burning.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

  • This document was created from the article, "Walter B. Wriston '41," written by Nancy Smith for the Fall 1985 edition of the "Wesleyan: The Wesleyan University Alumnus." The original article is located in MS134.003.025.00007.
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