(Proverbs 21:11 KJV) When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.
This seems to be contrary to the traditional wisdom that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. This proverb tells us that we can learn two ways.
First we can learn from the mistakes of others. I am sure you have watched other people self destruct. We observe procrastination, sloth, waste, vanity, selfishness and such every day. The really “wise” (7919a) person sees it and decides to do different. The slightly wise person sees the way the “scorner” (scoffer NASB) (3917b) is “punished” (6064) and still learns enough to decide to do different.
Have you ever been in a car with a drunk driver or experienced a close call? Did that teach you to control your drinking? Did it take a tragedy for you to get the message? That is an easy illustration. You could find more subtle examples of that every day. Watch and learn.
The other part of the promise is where we should be. When we are where we should be spiritually we can learn from the teaching of the Holy Spirit. That is why I read the Bible daily. Not just to look at the words, but to let the Word look at me.
So? Learn from the mistakes of others, yes. Learn from your own mistakes, yes. But the best is when we can learn from the truth that is offered to us and avoid the mistakes. Take it any way you can get it. Read, think, pray, listen, grow.