A long time ago I came across a saying which I still like very much
Freedom is not worth having, if it doesn’t include the freedom to make mistakes. (Ghandi)
Isn’t that exactly the opposite to what our kids learn at school? If they don’t know the answer, they get a bad mark. The kids who can answer get the star. At work the core premise is “do it once – do it right”. The same kind of thing.
But don’t we learn by making mistakes? Just today I was reading about the US$320 Million DARPA failure with the hypersonic test plane. Wow, shouldn’t they get that right? Interestingly the official response was “We’ll learn. We’ll try again. That’s what it takes.” Wow! I was stunned – a public statement that didn’t look for excuses but simply stated “we made a mistake”.
It’s actually happening in selected work settings, too. One of our project templates says “This project was a success because we learned, …” Again, a very important step to acknowledge success is linked to failures.
What we shouldn’t forget is that we learn from our mistakes. The kid in school that can’t answer the question may need to change his learning habit. That starts in the classroom by asking questions. Mindless learning of facts does not lead to understanding of concepts.
Yes, we need to learn some basics like the alphabet or numbers. But the significance of the invention of “0 (zero)” will never come from that. It will only come by putting it into context and understanding the results through questions, experiments and discussions.
There is a nice Youtube videoclip that adds some more context around “Why you need to fail”
Derek Sivers not only says “If you are not failing, you are not learning.” he goes a big step further. If you don’t want to fail, you are not going forward. You are stuck on what you have achieved and probably go backwards.
Set yourself goals that stretch. Set yourself out to do something new. Build a mindset that you can do this.
Then there is a third element called experiments. I first thought, okay, that’s just filling the number of elements to 3 because it looks good and 3 is a magic number. But, I was wrong.
Experimenting is a different dimension to learning. It takes what you good at and stretches the boundaries – your boundaries. Often you think inside the box and take the box walls limits for granted. Just try and go out of your comfort zone. You will fail initially. But the experience can make you stronger. Apply what you have learned to what you are good at and stretch and make it better.