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Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there. -

Most of us think of a screw up, a failure, a crash-and-burn, as a bad thing. It can be.


It can also be a very thing. If you fail in the right way.

How do you fail in the right way?

The path to lifelong learning– to truly effective, mind-blowing, earth-shaking learning–is paved with failing successfully and often. Fail in the right way to become a better student. Do you want to be a better learner by the end of this week? Experiment, and let your failures catapult you to success.

Here’s how.

Give yourself permission to screw up.

You can get it wrong some times. The important thing is damage control and analysis. Here’s what I mean.

You need to try things that push you out of your comfort zone. Try learning something in a totally new way…

  • Ditch the and go with a recorder.
  • Ditch the recorder and go with notes.
  • Try learning by doing.
  • Make a play.
  • Draw a picture.
  • Go to the prof’s office hours.
  • Skip class and learn it off the internet.
  • early.
  • late.
  • Memorize everything.
  • Memorize nothing.
  • Read all the assigned readings.
  • Read none of them.

Experiment with your learning. What works for you?

It’s easy to engage in lifelong learning; witness the twenty-year grad student. But lifelong learning that continually improves and becomes more effective? That’s a little tougher. The only way to keep perfecting your lifelong learning skills is by experimentation.

Do something. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, do something else. -Franklin D. Roosevelt

Make sure you have damage control

But what if your little experiment fails? You need to fail smart.

Experiment on the non-essential; the stuff that won’t impact your grade. Come up with your own quizzes, or have a friend come up with them for you, or take a test from a previous year and see how you do BEFORE you take the real test.

If your little experiment didn’t work, you’ll know. And you’ll still have to go back and do it the proven way before the real test.

Analyze your outcomes

If your experiment fails or if it is a phenomenal success or if it’s just “mehhh,” you’ve got data. After the experiment ask yourself some key questions.

  • Exactly how did your experiment succeed or fail?
  • Can you change something that might fix it?
  • Did you find something that definitely doesn’t work?
  • What do your results you in other areas of life?
  • What changes will you integrate into your habits?

Use the experiment to get better. Failure can be a great thing, if you learn something valuable.

Of course, this all hinges on you having the to experiment. You may not have that time right now. But when you do have the time, experiment. The Wright brothers made their living building bikes. What if they hadn’t taken the time to experiment with flying machines?

So experiment with your learning. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. But fail well, with damage control and analysis.

Got a story about your own failure that led to success? Let us know in the comments. If this post was useful to you, give me a like/thumbs up/gold star/tweet or something to share your find with the rest of the web community.

© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.

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