Not all trial and error is learning the hard way. I’ve found that some of my biggest progress in life came after some wiser, older person over me let me stumble along and find my own way.
As a student teacher, my mentors looked over more than a few lesson plans that they knew wouldn’t work, which were full of hypothetical, idealistic experiments that were bound to crash and burn; lessons built more on group creativity than on drills of basic skills, for example. Doubtless that someone could have told me that I was wasting my time, but actually going through the experience of teaching some embarrassingly poor classes helped me really understand what does work.
Ditto at church. In various positions, I’ve tried some dumb stuff to help motivate and serve people–unnecessary assignments, pointless meetings, inappropriate lessons–and the patient people in authority over me have usually let me do my thing, providing that it doesn’t do too much damage.
The more I think about it, the more impressed I am that so many people have been comfortable enough and trusting enough to let me grope my way forward in the dim, bleary vision of the rookie, quite like a parent letting a child toddle around and only intervening when he’s going to really hurt himself.
Am I so mature myself now? Sadly, no. I tend to be an obsessive, micromanaging, controlling leader. I don’t know why; I can’t remember such dominance ever having good results. I need to become more patient of letting people grow, the way lots of great people have let me grow.