“Mistakes are stepping stones to success,” said a certain Charles E Popplestone. And while it isn’t clear who Charles E Popplestone might be, it seems his up-by-your-bootstraps, motivational quotes are rather popular. By extension, quotations about the benefits of mistakes in helping breed success are also quite popular. Regardless, scientists are taking aim and shooting down this theory that we learn from our mistakes. Dwelling on mistakes may actually bring us down. As it turns out we would be better served to remember that old saying – Nothing succeeds like success.
MIT professor Earl Miller noted his research that showed our brains track if recent behaviors led to success. And upon finding successful outcomes, our brain cells are happy and vibrant, ready to repeat the successful activity. A good way to celebrate would be to go out and succeed at the same thing a second and third and more times. On the other hand, mistakes don’t teach us how to succeed, they teach how not to make the same mistake again. What doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily strengthen you as we’ve been led to believe. Though one could argue about the valuable lessons learned from eliminating unsuccessful strategies.
Author Scott Halford who has written and spoken much about business success says that the professor’s research can be useful in crafting success in the corporate world. Rather than being bogged down by your mistakes, take a break, rejuvenate and attack the problem in new and more creative ways. When you hit upon a successful strategy – celebrate. Then practice, rinse and repeat. Okay, not necessarily the rinse part. Additionally, give out lots of pats on the backs of successful employees. It will make their brains happy and they’ll be primed for future success.
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