How to Learn to Love Your Mistakes

Why do executives suffer emotionally when the world discovers they are not perfect and make mistakes? Making mistakes, errors or failing makes them feel stupid,
embarrassed and worse – incompetent.

These emotions lead to chronic stress, a weak immune system and even heart attacks. The negative feelings about making future mistakes make them gun-shy
about decision-making, that leads to the Unemployment line.


Mistakes force our brain to concentrate on discovering solutions. Mistakes and learning are like ham-and-eggs. Mistakes, errors and failure force us to focus
on new learning. Mistakes linger in long-term memory because they excite the fear
of failure.

Get this: real learning does not come from reading, listening to lectures, watching educational videos or demonstrations. Learning new ideas or skills comes from doing, making mistakes, and remembering both our errors and our solutions.

The Most Important Knowledge for 2011

If you remember only 5-10% of something you finished learning – is that the same as never learning it in the first place? Retention of what we learn is everything, right?

If you read an article for information and retain 5 or 10% or even 20 or 30% - did you really get it? Comprehension in school is at least 65%, right?

The Learning Pyramid: Adapted from National Training Laboratories, Bethel, Maine

The following is as real as a heart attack, so remember it.

Average Retention Rates

1. Listening to a lecture by a teacher, specialist or professor – after 8-hours we
retain just FIVE-PERCENT of it. After 24-hours - we remember just One-Percent of her brilliant research. No good.

2. Reading a textbook for knowledge and motivated by future testing, we retain
just Ten-Percent of the key points after 8-hours. After 24-hours - we keep only Five-Percent of it. Reading alone does not cut it, right?

3. Watching and listening to an Audio-Visual presentation: after 8-hours, all we
retain of the material is Twenty-Percent. After 24-hours - it drops to Ten-Percent.

4. Seeing a Demonstration of an idea or new skill: after 8-hours, we retain
Thirty-Percent of what we saw. After 24-hours – we get to keep Fifteen-Percent of it.

5. Participating in a Group-Discussion to learn new ideas or skills: retention is
Fifty-Percent - after 8-hours. After 24-hours, we get to keep up to Forty-Percent in long-term memory.

6. If you become involved in PRACTICING what you are learning (ideas or
skills) after 8-hours - we retain Seventy-Five Percent of the new knowledge. After 24-hours, we still own up to Seventy-Five Percent of the information.

7. If you take the new knowledge and TEACH it to others – after 8-hours, you
retain 90% of the information. After 24-hours you still retain up to Ninety-Percent
of the knowledge. Wait – after one-month – you still retain up to Ninety-Percent of
this learned knowledge.

Conclusion: Participating Teaching Methods like group-discussions, practice and
teaching others - is way superior to Passive teaching methods like Lectures,
Reading, Audio-Visual, and Demonstrations.

Emotions of Mistakes

To destroy the power of mistakes over your mood, mindset and self-confidence, do this:

a) identify the emotion you are feeling – embarrassment – frustration –
shame – (not being perfect, and feeling incompetent).
b) say it out loud, it gives you control over your negative feelings.
c) affirmation: repeat three-times. “I release my negative emotions
about how other people see me. I learn from my mistakes and get better
and better.”
d) Add emotion to this affirmation: raise your arms vertically like a
Touch-Down in Football and give yourself a cheer.
e) Type this affirmation on a card or sheet of paper and tape it to your


Real learning comes from analyzing our mistakes (choices) – errors and failures.
Why? It triggers our emotions, which activates our long-term memory for the correct answers. Trial-And-Error is a powerful tool.

The Secret is implementing

Listening, reading and watching a demo are not real learning. When we implement what we learned in the real world, it gets sticky and useful.
Mistakes come from implementing new knowledge or skills. Define: implement.
It is to start, put into action, and to use it. Synonyms are execute and perform.
Antonyms are to cancel and stop. Implement means to follow-through, apply and

When you implement the new ideas or skills – mistakes are natural. Now you have
choices to make, and that is when learning occurs. Implement is from Latin, meaning to fill-up.

Making mistakes is never negative because it is necessary for real learning. In physics, power flows from Negative to Positive. All you require is to extend your
Comfort-Zone and learn from your mistakes.


Choose to remember that listening – reading – an audio-visual - and seeing a demonstration – do not cut it as learning. You need to get your hands dirty
with implementing the new knowledge or skills. Got it? I knew you would.

See ya,

Tell me, if you could read and remember three-times as much as your peers
at school or work, would you have a powerful competitive advantage?

Contact us for a free, no strings attached speed reading report on how to 3x
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copyright © 2010 H. Bernard Wechsler

Author's Bio: 

Author of Speed Reading For Professionals, published by Barron's.
Business partner of Evelyn Wood (1909-1995) creator of speed reading.
Graduated 2-million, including the White House staffs of four U.S.
Presidents: Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon-Carter.