I was listening to Language Hacking Guide this afternoon, and a lot of methods for change and behavior design came back to mind. Let’s focus on one theme for now: mistakes. Most people are conditioned to focus on mistakes. You may be too. It often starts at school, and then continues in firms with a poor culture and an overly inflated focus on mistakes. At times, it looks as though people have a microscope with a filter that prevents them to see the big picture or successful attempts, and only notice mistakes. And naturally poor teachers or managers comment on these mistakes, at times associating blame or at least judgement to the notice.
- Mistakes will happen, so you can choose one of two roles or perspectives: the passenger/back-seat driver, who looks behind at all the things that could have been done better, or the driver, who does not have the luxury of looking backwards all the time, and must learn from every turn. It’s not how many mistakes you’ve made that counts. It’s how much you have learned and how many you will not make thanks to this learning. Accept making mistakes and look forward.
- Mistakes are an opportunity to learn, by being corrected. This also means you need to pick the right people to practice with. If you practice with people who pick on everything, you will not be able to practice and get in the flow, in the zone. If you pick someone who is too lenient, you will not learn much. Pick people who do have an interest and a pleasure in teaching, but not such an ego or impatience that they want to correct everything immediately. Pick someone who understand that people grow through time, and the mistakes you make today do not define you, but instead build you. And if you can’t pick, filter what you receive. Learn (a few) lesson(s) everyday.
- Mistakes are also rarely a huge obstacle to meeting your goal, much less than doing nothing, if you want a fair comparison. For instance, I am as bad as it gets with tones. So when I pronounce 妈 Mā (mom), it sounds like 骂 Mà (scold). You could think it will make a difference for my daughters or my mother-in-law, who obviously don’t want to be scolded. But it is so obvious for them that I am bad, and so obvious that I could not mean ‘scold’, and people are so used to the various tonal combinations that people adjust, that the mistake does not even slow down the conversation. Remember the goal, and check if you are getting closer.
My position on ‘mistakes’:
Fail early. Fail often. Avoid repeats. Make new, ‘better’ mistakes instead.
In parting, check this great article from Jeremy Jackson (Method), posted on Fast Co.Design (where I found the illustration in this blog as well): http://www.fastcodesign.com/1663968/wanna-create-a-great-product-fail-early-fail-fast-fail-often