I’ve been thinking about my mistakes lately. Not because I’ve been making more of them, I’d say I’m running par for the mistake-layden course. But because I’ve been seeing more value out of them. This is not the first article that you’ll see about learning from mistakes but I think I’ve got a few things the add to the list.
Let’s briefly examine why average looking folks, like you and I (or at least me), occasionally find ourselves resenting overly attractive people. Beautiful women get doors opened for them, literally and figuratively, simple because they are beautiful. Same goes for men, by having a strong jaw, broad shoulders and a full head of hair they find themselves unchallenged and people defer to them and their handsome opinion. I may be playing to stereotypes but these feelings and actions are out there. Some people feel that attractive people get the world handed to them and never have to earn it, like the rest of the world. They haven’t earned it. I think that’s the key. (Note: I know attractive people have to actually work at stuff. It’s hyperbole.)
What does it mean to earn something? We’ve got to work at it. Pour our blood, sweat and tear into it. Our blood and sweat from continued efforts and challenges. Our tears, from efforts gone wrong. We inherently think that without having to encounter some failure, people are reaching posts in life that they may not be qualified for. So even with good looking people out of the equation, we see the value ‘the hard way’ bring to our lives.
It’s not enough to make mistakes, any putz can screw-up on a regular basis. We should be reflecting on our mistakes with eyes that are wiser for having made those mistakes. I’ve read a number of blog posts and article on the value of failure and they seem to continue to lean towards writing you mistakes down, some as they happen, others looking back in review. Either way you should keep track of them and review them.
The goal here is not to beat yourself up over them but the learn from them. Gamification has become the latest craze in employee motivation. One tremendous aspect in gamification is the built-in failure. You can lose at something, or die while fighting a dragon. It ok because you’ll get another chance at it and this time you’ll know something that you learned from last time. To look back on your experience and be able to alter future actions takes self-awareness.
We need to take a candid look at our actions and decision and be very honest with ourselves what the real causes were. I’ve done a podcast about self-awareness and it’s importance to trainer but here we see value for the student and without that honestly the exercise loses it’s impact. As trainers we need to explicitly let learners know that making mistakes is part of the learning process. How do we do this? I think we could start by sharing a mistake of our own. This might encourage them to share their mistakes and also the learning that came with it. There’s a TED Talk by Brian Goldman about how Doctors Make Mistakes but no one wants to admit it. If they did admit it they could share their learning and prevent other mistakes and possibly save lives.
We all have to make efforts to remove the negative stigma of mistakes. We might say ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’ but how often does this actually get people to ask more questions in your training? To get more questions, answers and engagement in general we need to give learners a very safe room. Where do people do a lot of self-discovery? Therapists’ offices. Those places ooze comfort. How do our training rooms stack up? I’m not trying to cast the first stone, but I’m just trying to say that people need to be comfortable and we should make efforts to achieve that.
I have personally found that some of the most difficult mistakes were the ones when I stumbled into a pitfall that I had no idea was there. I think that this could be lessened with more preparation and digging into the cloudy areas of the material a bit more before going into a presentation. Being lazy with those little questions that we have is only going give us trouble later. I can learn from this mistake to prevent future mistakes.
I’ll finish this with a quote from Pixar’s Andrew Stanton, the director of Finding Nemo, “The first draft is nothing more than a starting point, so be wrong as fast as you can.”