How many times have you heard the famous “learn from your mistakes” advice? A hundred times? More likely, the number is close to a thousand since it is one of every parent, grandparent, and teacher’s favorite sentences.
But isn’t failure a little bit exaggerated in our culture? Sure, making a particular mistake will ensure you won’t make it twice, but it doesn’t mean you won’t fail ever again. In short, failure teaches what you shouldn’t do, but you won’t learn what you need to do to make things work.
Is learning from failure overrated then? Well, yes. And if you still don’t feel convinced, keep reading. In the article below, you’ll find why this old saying isn’t entirely true, and what are other, better self-development secrets.
Why Are Failures so Fascinating?
But before we get to the point of the article, let’s talk more about the reasons why we as a society glorify failures. After all, the famous saying hasn’t come out of anywhere. There are tons of heart-warming stories of successful people who failed at the beginning.
Almost every millionaire and billionaire says that they’d made many mistakes before they succeeded. Henry Ford, for example, went broke five times before he founded Ford Motor Company.
With thousands of similar stories, it’s easy to claim that you have to fail if you want to succeed.
And while it’s hard to deny that you learn something from every mistake you make, is failure truly the best teacher? More and more people are starting to realize that it isn’t entirely right.
A Beautiful Illusion
The biggest problem with learning from failure is that you focus too much on what isn’t right, forgetting that you should concentrate on the things that work. And yes, every mistake ensures that you won’t make it in the future, but it doesn’t guarantee that you will succeed.
Let’s look at our famous Henry Ford again. As mentioned before, he had failed five times before he founded the Ford Motor Company. But how can we be sure that he learned from his mistakes? More probable is the fact that he focused on the things that worked, rather than on the ones that failed.
Misstep is only the first step in realizing what went wrong. But that’s the point. It teaches you where you failed, not what you should do differently to prevent the same mistake from happening.
When you learn how to play an instrument, do you focus on what you shouldn’t do or what you’re doing correctly? Probably the latter.
Still, we love hearing stories about famous people who failed many times and never gave up their dreams. Have their failures made them stronger? Yes. Have they learned the most from them? No. They’ve learned from their success, which brings us to the next point.
Success Is the Best Teacher
If you were a business owner, who would you rather fire? An employee who makes many mistakes, or the one who completes all their tasks? According to the “failure is the best teacher” rule, you should do everything you can to keep the first one. Not very logical, is it?
It may be a slight exaggeration, but you get the point. If you want to be successful, you have to focus on what you’re doing right and how you can make it even better. Success teaches what you should do, which, as mentioned before, is entirely different from learning what you shouldn’t do.
Do you think that Quentin Tarantino would’ve ever become the director he is now if he’d focused merely on his mistakes? No. He notices what works in his movies and improves it to make it overshine any potential error.
That’s why, rather than thinking about what didn’t work, next time you do something, focus on finding out what and why something went right.
Analyze how you can repeat, or even improve something. Doing that will allow you to set new goals and not wallow on the ones that failed.
The Bottom Line
Both mistakes and successes can teach you a valuable lesson. Which one is better for personal growth, though? Most people believe that failure, but now you know that they couldn’t be more wrong.
Failure is overrated, and it only teaches what you shouldn’t do, whereas it’s far better to learn what you ought to do.
If you want to succeed, you need to analyze the things that work and see how you can improve them, rather than focus on your failures and avoid making them again. Indeed, stories of failure and success are heart-warming, but they don’t have much in common with reality.
Learning through mistakes is a beautiful illusion created to warn us that we will fail at some point in our lives. But it’s the success that teaches us the most, allowing us to grow.