“My dog is a genius, he jumps and opens the door,” my friend said proudly. But all her dog did was to use the most basic and ancient natural method of learning: Trial and error. After numerous jumps and attempts, he found exactly how to jump and what to pull. He may have failed a thousand times, but now she calls him a genius. Learn to love your mistakes.
Humanity used trial and error to climb down from the trees and climb up the skyscrapers. From the prehistoric cave to the Manhattan condo, the history of humanity is full of unsuccessful attempts that lead to brilliant solutions.
- Humans use trial and error. From the prehistoric hunter who adapted tools and hunting techniques by testing them on the field, to the driver who learns how to park in a tight space, success comes after many unsuccessful attempts. Toddlers fall hundreds of times before they learn how to walk.
- Nature uses trial and error. The evolution of species is a constant trial and error scheme where our DNA “learns” how to adapt to achieve the best result. Slow lions and short-necked giraffes surely existed at some point. Not any more.
- Society uses trial and error. We tried absolute monarchy, fascism, communism, war, closed borders, and tariffs, but it seems that most countries on Earth have settled for parliamentary democracy, peaceful cooperation, open borders, and free trade. Would we arrive at those conclusions without trying other political systems first? Unlikely.
- Science uses trial and error. “The scientific method continues to evolve through adaptive reward, trial and error and application of the method to itself,” writes David Hunter Tow in The Future of Life: A Unified Theory of Evolution. Testing is one of the bedrocks of science, and experiments are used to confirm or disapprove a theory, every error leads to more knowledge.
Babies don’t give up. Why should I?
Little children have no fear of failure. They learn how to walk by continually falling on the ground, and they learn how to talk by muttering incomprehensible sounds without ever worrying that someone will judge them. Everything changes when the parents start to dictate the “right” way to do something, thereby calling a “mistakes” every unsuccessful attempt. Then, the child tries to be perfect every single time to please their parents, and failure is not an option.
I always try to free myself from the fear of judgment. Trying new things is the essence of progress. Not everything works, and I rarely succeed immediately. Errors are expected and are part of the process. The baby knows it; the dog knows it. That’s why they never give up.
I learned that failure is part of the game
Ask any seasoned cook, and they will tell you the same thing: To create a unique dish you have to try many different ingredients in many different ways and cook them hundreds of times before you end up with a magnificent result. Is every unsuccessful attempt a failure? Of course not.
An error is not the same as failure. The famous (and overused to death) Thomas Edison quote, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” gives the distinction between trying things and failing to get the desired outcome. Most wrongdoings can be solved by trying again and turning the result into an experience. So do mistakes.
Embracing failure makes you a resilient fighter
Disappointment is only natural when there is no reward for some time. You have to be patient. Keep trying, be resilient, use the experience of previous mistakes, don’t let a disappointment stop you. Err often, even brutally, but don’t stop. You may fail a thousand times, but in the end, like the dog who opened the door, they’ll call you a genius.
Author Bio: Kostas Farmakis– I write for the living for the past 30 years. Expert in digital life, tech and traveling. Currently learning code and stand-up comedy. Don’t know my endgame.