Learning from failure (is overrated)

Failure is not a rite of passageFailure and the fear of failure are two completely different things.

That’s what I wrote in my copy of Rework at the end of the “Learning from failure is overrated” section. It came to mind last night as I was reading Children With Disabilities and Making Mistakes. In the article, Zach brings up one of the (often true) stereotypes about parents of disabled kids – overprotectiveness – with some thoughts on the importance of mistakes.

Parents don’t realise how them being overprotective is in fact harmful to their children’s development. The number one way people learn, yes including those with disabilities is by making mistakes. If people are not allowed to make mistakes they will never learn. Parents of children with disabilities often protect their children from being able to make mistakes, thus they never learn.

This is, according to the guys from 37signals, a common misconception. What you really learn from, they say, is success.

Even though these two things sound like – are – opposites, there is a common theme that unites them: you can’t fail or succeed if you never try anything. And that is really what overprotective parents are guilty of: giving in to their own fear of failure and not letting their kids try things. Sadly, this approach more often leads to mediocrity than to excellence.

And the last thing kids need, especially kids with disabilities, is their parents dooming them to a life of mediocrity.

2 thoughts on “Learning from failure (is overrated)

  1. OK, so I just ordered myself a copy of Rework. Looks good.

    In terms of whether we learn from success or failure, sometimes it’s a bit of a circular argument, IMO. I agree we learn best from success, but sometimes we need to have some failure, in order to learn how to be successful in managing failure.

    In crisis resource management in medicine, current thinking holds that we can never prevent all mistakes. Therefore instead of concentrating solely on preventing mistakes, we need to also teach how to manage failure.



  2. Joe,

    To get even more circular, when you are learning to “manage failure”, a failure is actually a success, so you’re learning from success! 😀

    Speaking of mistakes and medecine, I also recently reviewed The Checklist Manifesto, which addresses how checklists can be used to help reduce mistakes. Would be interested in your thoughts on that.


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