Own Our Mistakes

“How experts learn, they really learn by looking at their mistakes. And this can be an unpleasant way to live, because who wants to get home after a long day’s work and think about all the stuff you messed up that day. And yet that tends to be a very effective way to learn. As Beckett said: ‘Fail. Fail better. Fail. Fail better.’ It’s that process of realizing that we all make mistakes. We all fail.

“I talk about it in terms of a variety of domains. I talk about it in terms of a backgammon player. After every match, even matches he wins, he goes back and looks at all the moves he did badly.

“I talk about a soap opera director who, after a day of shooting–a 16-hour day–he goes home and puts in the raw tape from that day and forces himself to make a list of thirty things he did wrong. Thirty mistakes so minor that no one else would notice them.

Tom Brady: when Tom Brady watches game tape for hours every week, he’s not looking for the passes he did well. He’s looking for the passes he missed, for the open men he didn’t find.

“We need to think about how we think about learning and see mistakes as the inevitable component of learning.  You can’t learn at a very fundamental level unless you get stuff wrong.  And so not to fear our mistakes. Not to loathe them. Not to be so scared of making them. But to realize that we have to, in a sense, celebrate them. That they are an inevitable component of learning and you can’t learn without them.”

Jonah Lehrer, on Open Source


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