Room for error


In high school science class, we had an assignment once to build a foot-long bridge out of toothpicks. Your grade was based on how much weight it was able to hold without collapsing. In this assignment I made an embarrassing mistake which taught me an important lesson.

The assignment clearly stated that the gap the bridge had to span would be a foot long. So I built a foot-long bridge. I didn’t think about that very much at all. I was the only person in the class who hadn’t - everyone else had done the obvious thing, and built their bridges at least a foot and a half long, so that it would be able to support some actual weight without collpsing. Due to being far too short, mine held hardly any weight, and I was humiliated. I was not young enough to have not seen this coming.

That day I learned an important lesson which I took to heart: only rarely in life is exactness a good thing. Almost always it’s best to have some padding. Sometimes it’s slightly more, and sometimes it’s slightly less, but allowing for some wiggle room makes things work out better. My life has been better because I learned that lesson, even though it was hard to learn.

Here’s another important lesson from this event which I have not yet taken to heart: I’m 100% confident that I’m the only person who was there that day who remembers that it happened.