SCRIBBLISMS Failure To Learn

scribblisms "failure to learn" "Sab Will" miniMillions and hundreds of self-helpy books and inspirational articles and cheesy memes attest to the common belief that you need to succeed in failing before you can ever hope to not fail to succeed.

The idea is that it’s not only unimportant if you screw up the first few times you try something new, but that it’s actually utterly necessary and indeed highly desirable.

I have to say I adhere to the homilies and here I attempt to tell you why…

In order to succeed you
must fail, so that you know
what  not to do next time.


  ~ Anthony d’Angelo (🐦 Tweet Me!)

scribblisms "failure to learn" "Sab Will"

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It’s almost embarrassing to be reiterating the fact that we generally don’t immediately succeed when we try to do something new. That’s blindingly obvious and no teacher worthy of the name would expect otherwise or criticise any of their students for proving this truism.

Unfortunately, in a grown-up world demanding airbrushed perfection without the bruised knee learning curve showing, we tend to forget, or at least ignore this simple reality. Just consider:

Do we greet our child’s first slurred attempts to say ‘mummy’ with mutters of ‘try to articulate’ under our breath? No. Do we respond to little Johnny’s umpteenth bone-crunching bike crash with cries of ‘Oh for God’s sake, what’s the matter with you?’ No. Do we greet our five-year-old’s ear-grating violin torture session at the school show with shouts of ‘Get off!’ and showers of rotten tomatoes and peals of mocking laughter. No we do not.

At least I hope we don’t! Instead we tend to be filled with wonder and joy and pride at out little ones trying and, yes, learning in front of our eyes through their first attempts, mistakes and ‘failures’.

In fact, there is no such thing as failure in this context; the concept doesn’t compute. We are simply trying something out to see what happens. These are life experiments and they are what has made us humans what we are today.

If we fall off our bike our brain is furiously concluding that it wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience. Much more that that, though, it is working out why we fell and putting in place theories, such as leaning less or peddling more, to see what happens next time.

The ‘success’ of the bike ‘trip’ or vocal mutterance or musical murder attempt is judged by the experimenter on a wide variety of criteria, depending on the circumstances, such as Did it hurt? or Did I get food? or Did mummy smile?

More calculations are done. Was the result a good one? Do we want it again and in larger quantities? In which case, says our brain, we should not only do the same thing as before, but do it ‘better’ somehow, and so the process goes on.

This is learning and this is how we improve and this is how it has always been and how it must always be. Then again, there’s always pizza 🍕 and Häagen Dazs 🍨 too, so maybe I’ve succeeded in failing to grasp something somewhere…

   ~ Sab Will


Notes on ‘SCRIBBLISMS Failure To Learn’


Scribblisms "failure to learn" toonScribblisms is where we have fun sharing and thinking about some great learning quotes from down the years. Feel free to join in the discussion – the more the merrier.

Rainbow English School is a non-profit educational organisation based in France. We aim to improve the level of English and the effectiveness of teaching in general. We work with teachers and educational organisations to help them adapt and personalise their teaching methods.

Our method and approach is based on the latest scientific research into how we best memorise, recall and usefully apply krainbow english school scribblisms desireless mess sab willnowledge. We provide innovative tools and techniques which people can immediately use in their current learning or teaching situation. And we have fun doing it!

© 2016 Rainbow English School / Sab Will

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