How-To Learn by Trial and Error


This post should not need to be written …

Everytime, and I mean every time, you learn to do anything, you have done so by trial and error. Genius short circuits the process. Talent gets it quicker, but the process of learning is the same. Trial. and. error.

The latest findings from the neurosciences show that the brain aggregates memory and builds trial and error into the way to do something. Seems like the trial and error cells are held back while the successful trial and no error cells are moved to the front of the line. Then the old trial and error cells get recycled.

There are a number of things that either enable or disable this process.

Anxiety can work to help if it is aimed at the thing you are trying to do instead of at you focused on yourself failing. “I just can’t do this!” is anxiety talking, and disabling the trial and error process (hereinafter known as T&E). Someone outside your self talk can override your negative emotion with an enabling “Yes you can do it!” if they are an authority figure.

Which brings me to elbows in the mud at Boot Camp. Sargent Major SCREAMING “Whatisyourproblemgetourasupthatwallandoverthe toporIwillpersonallykickyour butttheremyself!!!” That is not a positive override, yet it sure as hell enables your body to get up and over the wall. How does that work?

Seems like the brain has a stronger need to win approval from authority figures than fail. So we do it for the Sarge. Or the Teacher. The Boy or Girl Friend. Or our Moms. Or Dads. Or our kids…

Or whomever we want to impress.

Regardless it’s T&E, the only way to effectively learn and the one way that is most overlooked by the industry from K – Corporate who purports to educate. The problem seems to be the E. You need to not fail. So no T&E only Just Do It. Nothing succeeds like success. [Add your own …].

It makes me crazy, not only because it disables the T&E process from Pre-K onward, it disables the process for all time. So we have a nation of people who no longer TRY because they are afraid to make an ERROR and FAIL. So we have a culture, a whole country of people who, for the most part, do not innovate, create, disrupt, do anything new and go from “Trial and Error” to “Tried and True”.

You want to learn or do something new and different and maybe better, faster and richer? Fail you ass off and count your errors as a plus rather than a minus.

Quick story to make a point. Thomas Edison was interviewed after he got the first light bulb to work (i.e. stay lit for more than a minute) and was asked “How did you manage to keep trying since you tried and failed over 1,000 times to get it right?”. He told the reporter “Those 1,000 times it didn’t work were all lessons that got me that much closer to the one that works.”

Now that’s T&E X 1,000. When it comes to learning, perseverance and persistence count …

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