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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trial and Error

Seeds of Success

Give me a fruitful error anytime, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself.”
Vilfredo Pareto

When was the last time you said, “Oh, goody! I made a mistake!” We don't do that, do we? It's part of that good/bad dichotomy I'm always harping on. Successes are good, mistakes are bad, right? According to many great innovators, Steve Jobs among them, apparently not. How many TED talks have you heard in which the presenters, typically experts in their fields, tell story after story of failure. With each failure, something is learned, something discarded and the process moves on. “You have to persist through failure,” they say.

So often we let mistakes to stop us in our tracks—particularly when we are very young, and the fear of ridicule is overwhelming. But we humans learn far more from our mistakes than from our successes. Hidden within our failures lay the seeds of success if we can simply persist. In fact, in one of yesterday's TED Radio Hour presenters, Professor Angela Duckworth, spoke of assessing the seeds of success in students. What she found was that success did not depend on Intelligence Quotient, or academic proficiency. The most successful students possessed a quality she called “grit.” That is, they had the determination and strength of character to stick with something long enough to perfect their skills. I think of athletes, who spend many hours each day practicing, even when they are already skilled. Take Stephen Curry, for instance, named the NBA's Most Valuable Player. He is only 6' 3” in a land of giants, but has perfected his game through constant practice since he was six years old, even to the point of devising his own “flashlight test” in which he taps rapidly moving flashing lights to increase the speed of his reflexes.

We could all do with more grit. There was a time in my own life when I would quit whatever I was doing if I didn't do it well the first time. I couldn't tolerate the frustration of trial and error. But I've found that if I just keep at it, if I simply persist through the mistakes and wrong turns, eventually I will be pleased with the results. The seeds of error are bursting with solutions, no matter what the task before you happens to be. Hang in there, team!

                                                                     In the Spirit,

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