Still Life

A Series of Mental Snapshots

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Demystifying What We Learn From Our Mistakes

Posted by Steve on September 11, 2008

I am sure everyone has heard the saying ‘You learn more from your mistakes than you do from your successess’ at some point in time in their lives and because it is so commonly said, I accepted it as a fact for the longest time, until quite recently. The phrase came up when I was at an info session for a company looking to hire full time new grads. The presenter was saying how the company did not mind if you made some mistakes, because of course you learn more from your mistakes than your successes, right? In my opinion this is not so, I think you just learn different things from your mistakes than successes and I will try to illustrate that with a few examples.

The Soccer Example
In this example, we will consider the success, scoring a goal, and the failure, not scoring a goal. When you score the goal, you have learned something very important, if I make a shot similar to this in the future, it is likely that it will go in. From the failure, not scoring, you learn what shots are not effective. In this situation I would argue the success is more meaningful, as I think that there are close to an infinite number of ways you can not score, and a finite number of ways that you can.

A Past Success
One of my past successes is that I was admitted into Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo; it is considered to be one of the more difficult programs to get admitted to at UW. This success came from working hard in school, and always looking ahead to what I needed to do to get admitted into the program, it was my number one priority. From the success I learned that if I hold something as very high priority and work towards achieving it, I can.

A Past Failure
One of my past failures would be the grades I received in one of my past school terms; they were much lower than my expectations, and I was very disappointed with what had occurred. It was very clear what caused this failure, my priorities were out of sync, and I put a difficult relationship as my top priority. From this I learned that it is important to step back and reassess priorities if things are not going well, and that more reflection is a helpful thing.

From the failure and the success I feel as though I have learned about an equal amount, just in a different manner. In both cases I look back and say how did I get to the end result, and for the success, I want to repeat those steps, and the failure I want to modify them. One reason I might see people thinking they learn more from failures is because people focus on them more than successes. If as much time was spent thinking about how you were succesful, I feel that you would get even more out of them than the failures.

So give it try, reflect equally on a failure and success, and try to assess which one teaches you more.

–Steve

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The Search for Perfection and the Fear That Motivates it.

Posted by Steve on February 19, 2008

It has been a while since my last post. This was a combination of two things, firstly I had a busy few weeks in my personal life, but secondly because of the recent increase in traffic I have been feeling like I want to make a really good post, something really insightful, therefore when I would get ideas for posts, I would question them… ‘is this really good enough to put up’, and I would often answer no. In this situation the search for perfection, was holding me back; so I began to consider where else this may apply to life, and realized it occurs in many areas.

I began to look at the reasons behind why I wanted a perfect post and came to the realization that the real root motivation was fear; fear of posting something that would have people say ‘wow that was a waste of my time, why did I read that?’, or that it would be ‘worse’ then my other posts; thus I was somewhat unable to act because of these feelings of fear. I began to think how the fear was a fear of not being good enough, that the next post I made would be inadequate. This lead me to think of where specific examples when fear has held me back in the past and the present. Here are a few quick examples:

In the fall I played a few indoor soccer games with my two friends, I wasnt officially on the team, but I filled in whenever they knew they were going to be shorthanded. It was a fairly skilled team, so I felt nervous about my own skill level because I didnt want to disappoint my friends or let down the team. This nervousness lead to fear of making mistakes and being inadequate. Once this fear was in place I never made any risky plays, over thought my moves, and was generally nervous. All these things led to me playing worse then I usually would, I was acting reserved, holding back, which when playing a quick game like indoor soccer is detrimental to over all play. So it was the fear of inadequacy that held me back, if I had been confident in my abilities and not worried I would have played much better.

Another example is from my classroom experiences at University. There are many times when I will know the answer to questions, or at least be 90% sure of the answer, and yet not answer it, because of the fear of being wrong.

I got a little off topic, but its an interesting area to explore, all of the things that we are missing out on because we fear doing them. Maybe its that project at work that you are not sure you can tackle, or that girl in your book club that you’ve had your eye on for a while, it could really be anything. The longer we let fear hold us back, the longer we will be thinking of what could be, instead of living in that reality. I am getting a little philosophical here, but my point is that if something is really worth pursuing, there is most likely a chance that failure will ensue. These chances have to be taken, its the life experience (whether it is a success or a failure) that we get out of these events that really make a difference, and help to shape our futures.

If it is worth doing, it most certainly is worth failing at. I try not to think of the failures that might happen, but instead think of the lessons taht I’ll learn (even in failure), I also think of the the rewards I’ll receive in success.

–Steve

Failure is but another vessel where knowledge can flow.

Posted in Personal, Work: General | 3 Comments »