Purposeful Failure

Better Mistakes

“I have not failed.  I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Thomas Edison

I am the anti-Thomas Edison.  I fear making mistakes.  I fear mistakes will expose me to others’ (mis-)judgements, like being seen as stupid.  I’ve evolved into a cautious reactor, preferring to watch others from the sidelines go first, make my own conclusions about when I feel safe to dip my toes in the water so to speak, BEFORE acting.  Sometimes, the caution turns into yielding, which turns into benching myself altogether–in an ultra-self-consciousness.  Mr. Edison’s quote, as well as his numerous achievements, are testament to the value of mistakes; however, I’m still circumspect.  So, I’m writing, well more of a thinking-out-loud-but-written-in-full-sentences, to mull over mistakes and their value.

The dictionary provided an objective definition to begin countering my wariness of mistake-making.  The dictionary states a mistake is “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong”, with wrong being defined as not correct.  Correct being “free from error, according to fact and truth.”  Well, since an incorrect answer would not be following fact or truth, why would I want a fictional answer?  Fib to avoid a potential mis-judgement from someone else?  That doesn’t make sense.  Hmmm…this mulling in writing is starting to introduce doubt about being so self-conscious…

Continuing my out-loud thinking to counter self-consciousness, I remembered a story I read that the Toyota Prius developed from hundreds of mis-designs, fires, crashes, and other failures before engineers created the first hybrid electronic car. In some cases, the Toyota engineers purposefully tried to fail, in order to understand more about hybrid engines.  Imagine if the engineers had given up in self-consciousness, not learning from their mistakes, thus missing the opportunity to benefit future generations of a less oil dependent form of transportation?  Geez, being self-consciousness may not only hold me back, but have an effect on others.

So, let me get this straight.  If, in my attempts to avoid error, I create a result that doesn’t coincide with fact, then I’ve fabricated answers–in other words, concocted a lie, which I then promote as the truth.  And, if I give up before even getting an answer, I not only limit my potential, but also may not be helping others.  So, tell me again, what’s so worthy about avoiding mistakes?

Photo credit: http://edelman8095.tumblr.com 

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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