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An artist’s studio and a craftsman’s workshop are both vessels of creativity and discovery.
Among the failed attempts and crumbling disasters, there are gems, diamonds, and their craft’s shining testaments. These prized works are not pieces unto themselves but are, rather, symbols representing decades of dedicated practice and experimentation.
We understand and respect the artist’s craft, and we easily trust the necessity of failure. You would never dream of chastising or criticizing an artist for their experiments. No. You accept the mistakes as part of the process and, instead, sweep away the bad in celebration of the good.
This process of allowing for failure and venerating the masterpieces is what, in part, drives the artist forward. They know they may have a million failed attempts on their path to excellence, but the reward will always outshine the toil and struggle, and no one will remember them for their blunders. It is only their triumphs that will endure.
If one knows that their failures will be discarded, one has tremendous freedom to fail—spectacularly and often. And it is this freedom that allows their greatness to develop.
We know this. We accept this. And yet…
We do not offer the same level of forgiveness for thinking and ideas. It seems more and more apparent that we live in a world that does not seek to cultivate ideas but to punish them. Your great idea will never outshine the shadow cast by your greatest mistake.
In these days of “Cancel Culture,” thinkers must live in fear of their mistakes. Unlike artists, thinkers are defined not by their successes, but by their failures. So rather than cultivating the development of thought, we cast it into the darkness. We require only perfect thoughts to surface, and we forever define others by their imperfections.
This is clearly absurd.
Thinking is a process no different than art; it is a constant practice, a skill you must learn and develop. One must try new things, and go down new and sometimes controversial paths—ones that reveal new treasures, and ones that reveal dead-ends. Just like great art, great thinking can only be born out of tremendous freedom. Thinkers must be allowed to fail—to fail often and to fail forward.
We must stop imprisoning people inside their outdated beliefs, and instead appreciate that we all grow, we all learn, and we all move on. But only if given the freedom to do so.
For what is the purpose of freedom of speech if not to allow for the open sharing of bad ideas? It is in the sharing that we learn where we are wrong. It is where we learn what we do not know.
And if we punish people who have different or dissenting opinions, we create a world lacking in mental artistry. We kill the spirit of creative thinking, we discourage original thought, and instead, we place groupthink on a pedestal, as an unquestionable ideal.
We know that if you punish children for lack of artistic ability, you create a world devoid of artists, devoid of beauty. Equally, I believe if you punish children for creative thought, you create a world devoid of progress.
For years we have encouraged and celebrated the need for creative expression. We must now encourage and celebrate the need for creative thought and openly allow for failures of thinking in the spirit of growth and mastery. We must be brave enough to listen to ideas that may be different and ones that may scare us.
All the while, finding comfort in the knowledge that we do not have to agree, and equally that without allowing for mistakes we are without diversity of opinion.
And without diversity of opinion, we are surely lost.