Using Mistakes to Get to Success

I want to talk about using mistakes and what seem like failures in order to get to success. So let’s go ahead and jump right in. I’ll start with a couple of quotes because I think it helps set the stage for this episode.

Michael Jordan is famously quoted for saying “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

“It’s impossible to have lived without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case you have failed by default.” J.K. Rowling

There is an important lesson I learned years ago that I wanted to share with you all. Simply put, it’s that mistakes and getting things wrong can be a good and very useful thing. Whether it be in business, academia, or even personal relationships. When a person is willing to fail, that marks a very important phase in transformative thinking. Because they begin to see failure as a way to make forward progress and no longer as a limitation.

Think about this, a baseball player that fails 60% of the time has a batting average of around 400, but that is a pretty good player relative to others. A scientist who can solve even one big problem over their career is rightfully heralded as successful. Even in book writing, although I have not seen statistics on this, but I am quite positive that no best seller has ever been the very first draft from that author. It likely had many revisions and edits.

I’ve had this happen in my own journeys as well. I chose a freelance writer to start off the YA fantasy novel that I’ve been working on because I knew that if I was to write the first draft myself, then I would spend a lot of time looking at a blank word document on my computer screen. I knew that if I had a rough draft, it would be wrong or not what I am completely looking for. But with an imperfect draft, then I could find the mistakes and holes in the story, and write them in. I truly believed in my ability to do that so I put my money where my mouth is and hired a freelancer. Now whether or not I can find a literary agent or traditional book publisher, or even if the book does not become a best-seller at some point after it’s released or not, I will have 1) tried a new venture without fear of failure. 2) believed in myself. 3) followed a process of thinking that I can apply to solving problems in other areas of my life. Start with something that I know is wrong, identify a problem, correct the problem, and repeat as many times as necessary until I am happy with the result.

Talking about this, I am reminded of blooms taxonomy of thinking. If you are not familiar with this, it is a hierarchy of levels that classify where people are at in their thinking. It goes like this.

1      At the most basic level, level 1, is Knowledge. The basis of knowledge is being able to recall information.

2      Comprehension. Do you understand certain pieces of information? You show comprehension of ideas and facts by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, and stating main ideas.

3      Application. Are you able to use the knowledge that you have in order to solve problems? Designing and running experiments.

4      Analysis. Are you able to identify and analyze patterns or trends that arise? Can you break information down into its parts?

5      Synthesis. Are you able to create new ideas from old concepts? It’s like when our human ancestors first peeled tree bark and weaved it together in order to create rope. Something so seemingly basic was revolutionary and allowed for the creation of even more technologies at the time like ancient weaponry, clothing, etc.

6      Evaluation. Can you assess theories and outcomes and confidently recommend and defend opinions? Can you defend the quality of ideas?

The reason that I was reminded of blooms taxonomy of thinking when talking about this is because when making mistakes and learning from them, you are essentially around the third level of this framework. The Application level. You are trying to use the knowledge you have, to solve a new problem. Whether you fail or succeed, you should move to level four, which is the analysis phase. If you don’t advance to the analysis phase, it’s like you have stopped your own growth and you never move into creating new ideas.

Not only did I implement the method of questioning in my writing, but I use it in my website development. I may not have the best website at the moment, but at least I have a rough draft. Once I know a little of the analytics on what people click on most and other parameters, I can optimize and handle those problems as they arise. For things like wording that I use, I already know that my copywriting isn’t the best, but that is something that I will research and improve. But at least I am not over analyzing to the point where I never get started. Understand that for tough problems, we likely do not have the answer when we first approach it. But for those that choose to tackle a problem head on and don’t give up, they are willing to fail at their first attempt so that they can learn what doesn’t work and make improvements on their next attempts. I believe it’s when Thomas Edison was asked about his work on the lightbulb, he was famously quoted for saying: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And that is the mindset that you should have when confronted with failed attempts at something. We all see what his persistence on that project resulted in. Something that revolutionized the way we live.

Please share this information with others. Feel free to leave a comment on this post if you found it helpful in any way. Also, let me know if you think I've missed something or if there is additional information that you feel would be helpful for other readers.