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What Do You learn When You Fail?

"I have not failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." — Thomas Edison

Learning a foreign language is hard, and it requires you to get comfortable sounding like an idiot. But mistakes are where learning comes from.

Amazon has an amazing culture of failure

Amazon.com's culture of embracing mistakes, being totally cool with failure is a key element to Amazon's rampant success.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos calls failure and innovation "inseperable twins" and says failure is "necessary for invention." He wants the size of Amazon's failures to grow as the company does, reasoning that smaller failures won't really move the needle. And having a culture of failure isn't just a growth path for Amazon. Bezos thinks making lots of mistakes — even huge ones like the Fire Phone — actually help keep Amazon relevant, making sure the company won't have to make a big bet someday just to stay in business.

3 ways mistakes can help you

Society has an amazingly negative view of failure, but the reality is that if you fail more and in new ways, you'll become a more successful person. Here's why.

  1. Failure creates humility. Have your heard the phrase "Harvard stupid" to describe the actions of people who are so accustomed to being right that they make mistakes that people with more humility might not have. Mistakes humble you and remind you that even if you know a lot, you still have plenty of growing to do.
  2. Mistakes are a primary source of wisdom. Wisdom is different from intelligence. Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing that tomatoes don't go in fruit salad. Through trial and error (and error and error), we create a learning curve. Unfortunately, our educational system and much of work life is based on penalizing errors. That's crazy.

Think about the Thomas Edison quote at the top of this article. What he gathered, from years of failed experimentation, was a path toward success. And not just success, but overwhelming, amazing success. If Edison hadn't failed so often and embraced it, instead of a lightbulb, he might have invented a super-candle and called it a day. And you know who we wouldn't be talking about today? Thomas Edison.

  1. Mistakes improve mental flexibility. Bezos is a proponent of changing your mind when you need to, saying that life is complicated and that we should never trap ourselves by something we've said in the past. "Anyone who doesn't change their mind a lot is dramatically underestimating the complexity of the world we live in," he said. If you think or even suspect that something you have long believed is wrong, challenge it!

Go forth and fail!

Failing a lot is just failing if you don't learn from it. Every day, we must commit ourselves to making new mistakes. Making the same mistake over and over isn't learning. It's madness.

So get out there and fail! Question your most deeply held beliefs! Go get some more wrong into your life!


This article is an excerpt from a recent Motley Fool article.

Dave Baney is the founder and CEO of 55 Questions, LLC and author of "The 3x5 Coach: A Practical Guide to Coaching Your Team for Greater Results and Happier People", which is now available in Paperback or a Kindle version at https://tinyurl.com/y8ecykfy


www.55Questions.com  Follow Dave on twitter https://twitter.com/55Questions


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