You have to get things wrong to get things right.
No, I’m being absolutely serious here.
As a GMAT tutor, I’ve seen first-hand how part of any program of learning involves a lot of mistakes, a lot of missteps, and a certain amount of frustration.
Nevertheless, many GMAT takers—that’s you!–are people with impressive credentials, impressive careers, and basically have never failed at anything.
Or, if they have, they have figured out how to gloss over that fact on CVs, in interviews, and have probably even got rid of anything dodgy about them on Google!
That’s because, of course, failure is not tolerated in the business world.
Well, unfortunately for us, failure is a very real thing and it will stick around, dogging us all of our lives.
The trick is to use the athlete or musician’s technique and embrace the failure.
Reframe it if necessary—think about the tired Thomas Edison quote, to paraphrase, “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
Even if electrocuting elephants (you can’t say you weren’t warned) isn’t your hobby, you can learn something from old T-Ed.
Edison knew that mindset was crucial to success. In fact, this was his massive triumph over his contemporary, rival, and—let’s face it—intellectual superior, Nikola Tesla.
Tesla hated failure and took all attempts to stop dissemination of his ingenious inventions as personally as one could.
(Thankfully for us, he was somewhat unsuccessful in this, because now we have Wi-Fi, radio, fluorescent lighting, and Alternating Current).
HOWEVER, Nikola Tesla died penniless in a hotel, surrounded by the hundreds of pigeons he regularly fed. These were his only friends.
OK, to be honest, I’m not suggesting that if you look at failure the wrong way you will die destitute and in love with a flying rat.
What I am suggesting is that if you focus only on getting things right, rather than allowing yourself to experience error, qualify it, quantify it, and learn from it, then you are doing yourself a disservice.
Tesla let failure get the best of him rather than seeing failure as a logical step toward success. Learn to see this step.
Put it this way: if you don’t know how to do it wrong, it will be very hard to know how to do it right.
Or: make mistakes, which will clarify what is not a mistake.
Even better, and from a much better source:
“An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field.”
–Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, leading figure in Quantum Mechanics.
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p.s. What mistakes have you made today?
p.p.s. Are you going to make those mistakes tomorrow?