Wednesday, 11 July 2012

How to Learn to Love Your Mistakes

I am blogging this article in its entirety as I could not possibly write this better than Bernard. This message is so important in today’s selling environment. Enjoy.

How to Learn to Love Your Mistakes
By H. Bernard Wechsler December 23 2010

Why do executives suffer emotionally when the world discovers they are not perfect and make mistakes? Making mistakes, errors or failing makes them feel stupid,embarrassed and worse – incompetent.

These emotions lead to chronic stress, a weak immune system and even heart attacks. The negative feelings about making future mistakes make them gun-shy about decision-making, that leads to the Unemployment line. 


Mistakes force our brain to concentrate on discovering solutions. Mistakes and learning are like ham-and-eggs. Mistakes, errors and failure force us to focus on new learning. Mistakes linger in long-term memory because they excite the fear of failure.

Get this: real learning does not come from reading, listening to lectures, watching educational videos or demonstrations. Learning new ideas or skills comes from doing, making mistakes, and remembering both our errors and our solutions.

The Most Important Knowledge for 2011

If you remember only 5-10% of something you finished learning – is that the same as never learning it in the first place? Retention of what we learn is everything, right? 

If you read an article for information and retain 5 or 10% or even 20 or 30% - did you really get it? Comprehension in school is at least 65%, right?

The Learning Pyramid: Adapted from National Training Laboratories, Bethel, Maine

The following is as real as a heart attack, so remember it.

Average Retention Rates

1. Listening to a lecture by a teacher, specialist or professor: after 8-hours we retain just FIVE-PERCENT of it. After 24-hours - we remember just One-Percent of her brilliant research. No good.

2. Reading a textbook for knowledge and motivated by future testing: we retain just Ten-Percent of the key points after 8-hours. After 24-hours - we keep only Five-Percent of it. Reading alone does not cut it, right?

3. Watching and listening to an Audio-Visual presentation: after 8-hours, all we retain of the material is Twenty-Percent. After 24-hours - it drops to Ten-Percent.

4. Seeing a Demonstration of an idea or new skill: after 8-hours, we retain Thirty-Percent of what we saw. After 24-hours – we get to keep Fifteen-Percent of it. 

5. Participating in a Group-Discussion to learn new ideas or skills: retention is Fifty-Percent - after 8-hours. After 24-hours, we get to keep up to Forty-Percent in long-term memory.

6. If you become involved in PRACTICING what you are learning (ideas or skills): after 8-hours - we retain Seventy-Five Percent of the new knowledge. After 24-hours, we still own up to Seventy-Five Percent of the information.

7. If you take the new knowledge and TEACH it to others: after 8-hours, you retain 90% of the information. After 24-hours you still retain up to Ninety-Percent of the knowledge. Wait – after one-month – you still retain up to Ninety-Percent of this learned knowledge.

Conclusion: Participating Teaching Methods like group-discussions, practice and teaching others - is way superior to Passive teaching methods like Lectures, Reading, Audio-Visual, and Demonstrations.

Emotions of Mistakes

To destroy the power of mistakes over your mood, mindset and self-confidence, do this: 

a) identify the emotion you are feeling – embarrassment – frustration – shame – (not being perfect, and feeling incompetent).
b) say it out loud, it gives you control over your negative feelings.
c) affirmation: repeat three-times. “I release my negative emotions about how other people see me. I learn from my mistakes and get better and better.”
d) Add emotion to this affirmation: raise your arms vertically like a Touch-Down in Football and give yourself a cheer. 
e) Type this affirmation on a card or sheet of paper and tape it to your computer. 


Real learning comes from analyzing our mistakes (choices) – errors and failures. Why? It triggers our emotions, which activates our long-term memory for the correct answers. Trial-And-Error is a powerful tool.

The Secret is Implementing 

Listening, reading and watching a demo are not real learning. When we implement what we learned in the real world, it gets sticky and useful. Mistakes come from implementing new knowledge or skills. Define: implement. It is to start, put into action, and to use it. Synonyms are execute and perform. 
Antonyms are to cancel and stop. Implement means to follow-through, apply and enforce. 

When you implement the new ideas or skills – mistakes are natural. Now you have choices to make, and that is when learning occurs. Implement is from Latin, meaning to fill-up. 

Making mistakes is never negative because it is necessary for real learning. In physics, power flows from Negative to Positive. All you require is to extend your Comfort-Zone and learn from your mistakes.


Choose to remember that listening – reading – an audio-visual - and seeing a demonstration – do not cut it as learning. You need to get your hands dirty with implementing the new knowledge or skills. Got it? I knew you would.

copyright © 2010 H. Bernard Wechsler

No comments:

Post a Comment