We Learn More from Success Than Failure

April 23rd, 2010

I read an interesting article a while back. Scientists have shown that you learn more from your successes than from your mistakes.

I found this interesting on many levels.

First of all, I think it’s interesting that I hear people giving advice saying, in essence, make enough mistakes and you’ll get it sooner or later. Of course, the message is re-packed into empty slogans that  sound a lot better (and perhaps sell you some motivational material). Something like “if you avoid failure, you also avoid success.” Or “you have to learn to fail before you can learn to succeed.”

Heard that before? I’ve heard BS gurus giving that advice a lot when you fall on your face following their bad advice.

I agree that if you are afraid to fail, then you will not be successful. But I don’t think that mistakes in and of them teaches anyone to succeed. Think about it for a moment. I have made the same mistakes repeated times before I realized what I was doiung wrong.

Whereas, other times I made a mistake and knew it right away.

I think everyone’s had this experience.

Another thing I thought made this interesting about the study was how it can account for why people repeat the same mistakes over and over again. What made this study so interesting is that it showed what kind of mistake we might repeat. It’s the kind of mistake where the only choices are succeeding or not succeeding.

When you choose between taking and action and meeting with success versus taking an action and meeting with no success, chances are you’re more likely to repeat the same mistake. This is different from taking an action and meeting with a negative outcome.

Think about it. We make mistakes all the time. If nothing happens as a result, it’s very likely that we’ll make the mistake again and again. However, if we meet success, we learn from it. So, chances are if we’re successful, we will learn from that success, whereas if we failed we might not learn anything at all.

I mention this study interesting because some people attribute making mistakes to being “stupid” or “negative thinking”.

I don’t blame people to feel this way because you might have late realized you’ve been repeating the same mistake over and over throughout the years. But don’t feel bad. It just might be that your “mistake” never led you to any negative outcome. Without any negative outcome, you are MORE likely to repeat the mistake.

My advice is when you do make a mistake that turns out badly for you and then realize you’ve been doing it for years, don’t beat yourself up about it. It seems that’s pretty normal. Just don’t repeat it again.

To read the article go here:



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