How Mistakes and Failure Contribute to Success


Everyone makes mistakes but we wouldn't grow without them. You'd think considering how common it is for an individual to make a mistake surely, there wouldn't be an expectation to never make them. If we go through life trying to ignore our faults, we will never be able to learn from it. Chances are, we will probably do the same thing again. Maya Angelou said, "once you know better, you do better". Sometimes we get angry at ourselves for doing the wrong thing which is pointless. Once you become aware, at that moment tell yourself "I'll learn from this and do better in the future".
Humans fear failure because it's a huge blow to the ego. We have a tendency to not fully acknowledge our mistakes because we just don't like being wrong. We try to find a way to justify ourselves instead of accepting we've made an error. By doing this, people jeopardize their chances of success because they'll never learn the lesson they need to know. Think about your attitude towards failure. Do you think it's acceptable to fail? Just remember the most successful entrepreneurs and sportsmen would not be where they are today without overcoming failure and learning from it.

Black Box Thinking Book Review

In Black Box Thinking, Matthew Syed shows how important it is the break the stigma around making mistakes in order to focus on the learning opportunity made available to us. Syed defines 'black box thinking' as the "willingness and tenacity to investigate the lessons that often exist when we fail, but which we rarely exploit." When we make a mistake or experience failure we face cognitive dissonance, a situation that conflicts with our own beliefs and attitudes. Often, we find ourselves pondering over how the evidence is wrong rather than accepting our own faults and believing we're in the wrong. If you don't put your pride aside and understand that you won't be right about everything, you are hindering your growth. We will never know everything which means there is always something for us to learn. Being open to the valuable lessons hidden by failure is key if you want to succeed.

How Mistakes Create Valuable Lessons

The book contains many real life examples that illustrate how mistakes made in industries such as aviation, medicine and the criminal justice system can cause tragic incidents, loss of lives and wrongful imprisonments. In the very beginning of the book, Syed shares an account of Elaine Bromiley, a 37-year-old who died during surgery due to a medical error. Martin Bromiley requested for an investigation to look into his wives death because he couldn't understand how she could die from a routine operation that had minimal risk. He later discovered that a medical procedure called a tracheostomy that would have saved Elaine's life was not performed. In the inquest, he found that the two nurses knew this procedure should have been used but didn't know how to put the suggestion forward to surgeons.  Martin published the report online to encourage medical experts to learn from what happened and prevent avoidable deaths in the future. He pushed for a reform that revolved around institutional learning, where individuals working in operations communicate better and are more confident to propose suggestions for treatments.

Failure Leads to Success


"failure sparks creativity and insight emerges from bridging the problem with previously unconnected ideas or technologies"

James Dyson's motivation behind his Dyson hoover invention came from his own personal experience. He realised there was a problem with his hoover because it lost suction too quickly due to dust particles blocking the filter from the bag. This caused the hoover to make noise and pick up less dirt. Dyson was frustrated by its inefficiency so he set himself on a mission to invent an efficient bag-less hoover. This didn't happen overnight and it took him 5,127 prototypes to perfect the cyclone technology that could be used. Syed pointed out that Dyson wasn't the first to come up with a cyclone hoover but he was the only one, despite failing countless times, who persevered until he got his invention to work.

"if we wish to fulfil our potential as individuals and organisations, we must redefine failure"                               

Adopting a growth mindset is crucial if we want to look passed any setbacks we may face. Using a negative feedback mechanism allows us to reflect on our performance and improve. A fixed mindset lacks the determination to learn from failure. Instead, they think they are incapable of success when things take a different turn from what they were expecting. Michael Jordan and David Beckham are two examples of successful sportsmen mentioned in the book. Both adopt growth mindsets and they failed many times during their career. Their consistency, motivation and openness to learning from failure allowed them to grow and become exceptional players in sports.  Michael Jordan missed more than 9000 thousand shots yet it didn't stop him from playing basketball. He knew failure was inevitable. Michael didn't limit himself or have negative beliefs about what he was capable of on the court.

Black Box Thinking is an amazing book.  My key takeaway is that you will not experience success without failure. The most important thing is to learn from your mistakes no matter how stupid or avoidable they are so you don't make them again. Rather than trying to avoid failure in every possible way, accept that it's a part of life and it is necessary for you to progress in the right direction. If we change how we perceive failure, success might come knocking on our door quicker than we think.


11 comments

  1. I definitely believe in mistakes adapt you to become a better person! None of us would be where we are today if we hadn't made a mistake and learnt from it. I haven't read Black Box Thinking before, but will definitely pick it up now - your comments make it seem like a really interesting read. I also love your mindset of through making mistakes and learning from them; success is sooner guaranteed - wonderful!

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    1. I agree! Thanks for commenting and definitely check out the book

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  2. Mistakes and failures do present valuable learning opportunities and opportunities for growth. It's always important to look at the failures of those that tried and failed before you, because you can ultimately avoid failure. It's the whole learning from history thing. If we repeat our mistakes with the insights available right in front of us to avoid them, that's just plain careless.

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    1. Great point! I think this is essential when you want to start your own business as well. Look at the common mistakes entrepreneurs make to prevent yourself from doing the same thing. Saves a lot of time and money.

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  3. This is so important! I've always viewed the acknowledgment of being wrong and making mistakes as a sign of being strong. If we can't admit to being wrong how can we ever grow and learn? Will definitely be checking out these books! Meera-Abroad | Travel, Fashion & Food

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    1. You're right. It's really easy to justify every possible reason for things going wrong and not look at ourselves and please do! I know you'll enjoy it.

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  4. So much. I love it so much.
    www.rsrue.blogspot.com

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  5. This is so so so true. I'm only the person I am today because of the mistakes and bad decisions I've made. Last year was quite possibly the worst year of my life but I am so grateful for it because all the lessons I learnt during that time made me who I am today!!

    Roni | myelevatedexistence.com

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