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4 Steps to Learn from your Mistakes

4 Steps to Learn from your Mistakes

Myth busting time !! Making mistakes do not deny us our glory. On the contrary, it gets us closer to the top. If you know precisely how to learn from your mistakes it can shoot you up, beating many others in the traditional rat-race.

I don’t know much, but I know optimization and productivity. In one similar post, I had discussed how your bad memory can help you propel upwards. Here is yet another hack which can make you, in a very short time, extremely quick, efficient and error-free in your profession. The trick is to know your errors consciously!! Follow the steps given to learn from your mistakes, and thank me later.

What am I really talking about?

To understand what I am trying to talk about, we need to delve a little deeper into how our brain works.

In Feb 1996, in a historical chess match between man and machine, reigning World Champion Gary Kasparov defeated the Deep Blue, a computer program developed by IBM over six years and with Millions of Dollars of research. Now, While Deep Blue calculated about 100 million possible chess combinations in a second and foresee up to 25 moves in advance, Kasparov could only manage about 3 moves per second.

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How then did he defeat the Supercomputer? Well, the answer lies in how our brain learns things.

When we make a mistake, a set of neurons fires up in our brain to establish a new neural pathway to prevent us from repeating those mistakes. A bad memory is formed as a barrier. Stronger the memory, lesser is the chance of repeating mistakes. This system is so fool-proof that in a matter of a few hours, our mind can be configured never to go down the wrong way again.

Deep Blue was dealing in algorithms while Kasparov simply had his memories to prevent him from making wrong moves. He had a ‘sense’ stopping him from making wrong moves. Each such decision involved complex algorithms and numerous small calculations, which simply comes to us as instinctive results. In other words, if you learn from your mistakes, your brain can solve unimaginably complex and difficult problems.

So if the human mind, undoubtedly the most sophisticated machine in the world does it, why can’t you learn from your mistakes? Well, everyone who makes a mistake does not necessarily come out effective after that. That’s because there is a precise way to learn – and here is how.

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The four-step strategy to learn from your mistakes

Let us explain each step with a real life example

  • Imagine a car mechanic named Andrew. His job is to check all cars for problems. He follows a checklist which involves everything which can possibly go wrong in a vehicle.

Step 1: Note down your mistakes

Every time you do a job for the first time, note down exactly the difficulties you faced, and what you did to overcome them. I am asking you to physically note it down using a pen and a paper. No shortcuts.

This may also be your PC or your phone. Improvise. Just one rule – every time you make a mistake, note it down.

  • Andrew follows the checklist diligently. It takes him hours. He finds that most Merc Benz cars have transmission problems. He keeps a record of that.

Step 2: Learn from the mistakes of your peers

Don’t wait to make all the mistakes.

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Use the global information bank of mistakes called experience feedback. Learn from colleagues. Watch closely for things that went wrong, how they tackled problems. Learn from others in similar professions, or from the internet. Again – keep a note.

  • Andrew digs deeper online and from the feedback of other garages, and finds that among a few things which are specifically giving problems to Merc Benz car owners, are transmissions. His purview shortens.

Step 3: Make your list of things to check

Yes, you guessed right. This list will be a combination of every possible error which you have come across in Steps 1 and 2. Here is where you begin to learn from your mistakes. A bit of imagination is required to imagine what can go wrong by extension too. Mention anything unexpected.

  • Now when Andrew sees a Merc Benz, he knows exactly what to focus on. He follows his own list of priorities. Since the cars have transmission problems he knows that he has to check the accelerators too, which are prone to trouble by extension.

What takes others three hours takes him a few minutes now. His colleagues are dumbfounded.

Step 4: Never be complacent

Word of caution: Many people have gone complacent at this point. You must understand that while your efficiency is definitely climbing, your problems can come from unexpected corners.

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  • Although Andrew knows that most cars will have similar problems, he still follows the checklist. though he checks everything, he just knows which one to focus on.

As you probably have guessed, Andrew will soon be the Merc Benz specialist and get noticed. Not because he is extremely intelligent. He simply knew his mistakes.

Know your mistakes

Yes, I made a lot of mistakes.

What saved me in the long run though is to know and understand those mistakes consciously, instead of trying to deny or justify them. Young trainees out at sea who work for me make their share of mistakes too. And I know that just like me, those guys will also be champions. All they need is a little guidance on which way to look. And that’s my job!!

Teach your juniors to learn from their mistakes so that make you proud one day!! Isn’t it ironical that we have known the process backward all along? We do not make mistakes while we learn, we learn because we make mistakes.

Featured photo credit: imworld.aufeminin.com via imworld.aufeminin.com

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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