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A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. Alexander Pope Are there lessons we can learn from our past mistakes? Explain your opinion.

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  Even though I am not a student of history, I think we can learn from events of recent past and of events occurring a long time ago. I will explain my point of view from three different perspectives ranging from the personal level to the international one.

One person who expounds learning from mistakes is Steven Wozniak the true creator of the Apple Computer. Wozniak has admitted to inducing his own failures by reviewing work he had already done. He once finished a circuit board, and then took it apart, realizing how inefficient it was. He threw out a week's worth of work, and proceeded to start all over again. The resulting invention was the Apple One, the world’s first personal computer. Even after this success, Wozniak has lost millions and had one company, Cloud Nine, which failed to produce enough marketable products. However, Wozniak learnt that he needed to specialize and to focus on one component with fewer capabilities. He built another company called “Woz” which has since developed radio-frequency chips that communicate with Global Positioning System satellites and which allows people to keep an eye on their children or other valuable belongings.

On a corporate scale, the western business world has learned from the gross mistakes of companies like WorldCom and Enron. Between 2002 and early 2006, the chief executive and financial officers from the corporation, Enron, were all given serious prison sentences. For many years, Ken Lay and Andrew Fastow were giving false financial reports and taking advantage of their stock investors. The accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, was equally complicit and was later convicted of obstruction of justice for destroying documents related to Enron’s audit. Now, corporate America has learned its lesson, realizing that chief financial officers and other corporate personnel need stricter corporate and business guidelines laws to ensure proper governance and corporate responsibility.

Internationally speaking, there’s so much from failed government policies that we can learn from. Some governments have based their policies on racial preference or on strict communist beliefs such as the previous Nazi government and Lenin’s Russian government. Many Europeans died and creativity and businesses did not thrive in the long term. Hence, we have learnt that such policies do not inspire international relationships or the national economy respectively. We have also learnt that atrocities committed and fuelled by such philosophies does ill to the human spirit. The United Nations along with the World Superpowers has since placed sanctions or intervened militarily in places such as Bosnia in order to stop more ethnic genocides. Sometimes, the higher powers are moved to act from media outrage or public pressure, but at least this proves that a majority of people do not want to see the repeated mistakes of our past history.

Overall, I doubt society or a civilization can move forward without the awareness of history. Whether it is not to repeat a wrong or whether it is to continue good examples that have been set before us, we never stop learning and most of the time, the most vital lessons come from our past mistakes.

(516 words)

 
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