Better By Mistake – Improve your life and performance by Alina Tugend

Improve Emotional Health

  • When analyzing mistakes we often suffer from hindsight bias. This assumes that a bad outcome is the result of a bad process. What you see after a mistake occurs is the entire picture. What you see while you are making the mistake is not. Almost any human action can looked flawed in the light of hindsight. People often slow down after a mistake in order to analyze a problem and switch strategies. Learning from mistakes avoids regret and blame and leads to an emotionally healthier way of life. We build up expertise and wisdom in the process. Fear of failure prevents people from trying new things.

It Starts Early

  • Children commended for being smart are often less willing to take chances than those praised for making a greater effort. The message is: “Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.” Key work by Carol Dweck finds that people who attribute failure to lack of ability are discouraged while those to blame lack of effort are not. (See my summary of Dweck’s book Mindset at People with growth mindsets see mistakes as part of the process of learning. It is important to teach this concept to children. If they believe smarts are set in stone, they avoid and dread mistakes. Teach that that hard work matters.

Become a World Class Success

  • Studies of high achievers portrayed in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, shows that it takes talent plus preparation, which means about ten years of deliberate practice at high levels of concentration. This includes lots of mistakes. (See my summary of Outliers at Protecting children from failure robs them of the lesson that mistakes are experiences to learn from. Teaching resiliency leads to self-esteem The best parents let children resolve most of their own problems. The also avoid blaming, excuses, and denial. (See my summary of Drive by Daniel Pink at

Different Types of Mistakes – Different Types of Responses

  • Single-loop learning happens when a mistake is detected and corrected without questioning the underlying values of the system. Double-loop learning involves questioning underlying factors and changing them. Leaders should reward admissions of mistakes. Otherwise, people will be more likely to cover them up. “How a company deals with mistakes suggests how well it will bring out the best ideas and talents of its people.” (Bill Gates) Blame cannot be the first response to mistakes. You may have more problems if you make to few mistakes as opposed to too many.
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