Count on Failure

To Improve

Failure is a leading indicator of progress, improvement, and when combined with persistence and luck, success. Even so, it doesn’t feel good so most of the time we try to avoid it. And we should strive to fail less, that is what it is to improve over time. But our relationship with failure can slow or accelerate our learning curve. Clearly defining success and failure in terms of a task, behavior, or pattern allows us to see it more as a yardstick, and less as an obstacle or embarrassment.

On Counting

Counting on its own is crazy important, and I expect to write more about that later. Counting things, even failures can help us learn more quickly than typical repetition focused practice. After all, practice doesn’t make us perfect, it make us predictable if not proficient. Why does having a good coach matter? Because it helps to see and track the flaws we cannot or will not otherwise see.

These days I carry a bag with 1,000 pennies in it, each time I make a mistake in my practice I take a penny out of the bag and place it into a jar. When the bag is empty, I have reached level one in that skill. Skill levels are tracked on a white bored. I’m currently a level 3 python programmer, and soon I hope to be a level 10 rock climber.

So What

After changing my focus success to counting on failure, I started noticing patterns and I began to plan for them. More specifically I began to plan for overcoming the challenges related to the failures I was counting. As the kinds of failures I was experiencing changed, so did my relationship with failing. I began to become curious about how succeeding at one thing often revealed new ways of failing that could not have possibly occurred to me before then. In other words, counting my failures led me to begin counting on them too, but not in a way that frustrates or de-motivates.

Failure is not an anomaly, it is not new or strange or bad or scary, it is one of many potential consequences of all task related behaviors. If you want to learn something quickly, make failure useful, make it a metric you can count on.

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