Learning Loops

Hi there. Today I want you to consider a statement.

There is no such thing as failure- only feedback.

I know; you probably want to hit me right now. But please bear with me.

When you were a baby and you took your first step, you most likely fell over a lot. Did your parents tell you that you were an idiot for falling over? Or did they applaud and cheer your efforts? Did you stop getting up and trying again saying, “I can’t do this, it’s too hard”?

Before we were programmed to see such experiments as “failures” we kept on trying and were encouraged to do it. We learned to balance better; to take the right size of step; to aim correctly for our destination. And eventually; after many, many “failures”, we learned to walk.

Famously, Thomas Edison, when doing hundreds of experiments to make his light bulb, was asked, “Why don’t you give up after so many failures”? He replied, “I haven’t failed once. I’ve just found and eliminated hundreds of ways which don’t work.”

If what you did didn’t lead to what you wanted, learn from it and try something different until you DO get what you want. I know, I know; easy to say. And I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a point at which you give up. It depends on whether the time investment is worth the potential reward.

But just remember that attitude of Edison’s. I didn’t fail; I just eliminated another way which doesn’t work.

Dwelling on “failures” will just create a negative mood. The negative mood may have had a purpose – it could be to motivate you or to protect you – but too often it is misguided. Seeing setbacks as experiments in a series is a lot more positive. And trying a different way next time is a better approach than branding yourself a “failure”.

Scientists are probably the biggest group of “failures” in the world. Ask any research scientist and they’ll probably tell you that for every breakthrough there were probably a thousand “failed” experiments.

Try not to automatically criticise yourself when things go wrong. Remember the baby’s experience above. No criticism, but applause. Try to analyse why it went wrong. Try to think of things you could do differently next time. Seek guidance from experts (Google and YouTube are always good if you can’t get anyone in person).Then give it another go.

Try to get a “NEXT!” mentality. Imagine a waiting room full of alternatives. When something goes wrong, mentally cross it off the list and shout into the waiting room, “NEXT!” If nothing else, the mental picture might just make you smile. 😉


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  1. Pingback: Learning and Failure | Adjust Your Selfostat

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