A Life Spent in Making Mistakes Is Not Only More Honorable But More Useful Than a Life Spent Doing Nothing

Creator: George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and critic

Context: Shaw’s play “The Doctor’s Dilemma” was first staged in London in 1906. In 1911 Shaw published the text of drama together with a lengthy preface which included the following passage. Emphasis added: 1

Attention and activity lead to mistakes as well as to successes; but a life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing. The one lesson that comes out of all our theorizing and experimenting is that there is only one really scientific progressive method and that is the method of trial and error.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to the newsletter author who asked about this quotation because she wished to verify its accuracy before including it in an upcoming issue.


  1. 1911, The Doctor’s Dilemma, with Preface on Doctors by Bernard Shaw, Section: Preface on Doctors, Quote Page lxxxv and lxxxvi, Brentano’s, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link