• Ian Gibbs

Student Tip 10: Don’t Ignore Them

Having said in the previous blog that making mistakes is good, I think we both know that if you keep making a pig’s ear out of your subject every time you try, something isn’t as it should.

If you’re trying to do a chemistry experiment that keeps exploding, something somewhere is going wrong.

If you’re trying to ask someone in French for a glass of water and they just don’t understand you, there’s a problem.

The whole point of making mistakes is to learn from them.

What went wrong?

What caused the mistake?

What weren’t you doing right?

What could you do differently next time?

If you simply repeat the same action only to get the same result, you’re not learning, you’re just acting stupid.

When you make a mistake, pay attention to it.

Don’t grimace and try to ignore it or cover it up.

Look at it and say to yourself, “That’s interesting. Why did that happen?”

Identify the reason.

Maybe it’s because you forgot an important step.

Maybe you confused one thing with another.

Maybe you simply haven’t practised enough.

Maybe you’re mentally exhausted and need a rest.

The Wright brothers, who invented the aeroplane, made lots of mistakes.

They had hundreds of crashes.

But each time, they made the effort to learn from their mistake.

They adapted.

They improved.

They worked on the problem and their success is history.

The same goes for whether you’re trying to build a spaceship to Mars, understand Shakespeare or do a Sudoku.

It doesn’t matter what the reason for the mistake is.

What matters is that you pay attention to why it happened and learn from it.

Once you’ve identified the problem, you can focus on it and try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Make a note of it.

Make a flashcard of it.

Make a picture of it and stick it somewhere you’ll frequently see it.

Practise just that bit a few dozen times.

Repeat it correctly till it sinks in.

But whatever you do, don’t ignore it.

That’s not learning.

Ignoring your mistakes is just you trying to fool yourself.

Learning from your mistakes doesn’t mean getting everything right the next time. You’re allowed to keep on being occasionally wrong.

If you got five out of ten on your last exam, then getting six out of ten is still an improvement, isn’t it?

Mistakes are there to let you know what you still need to practise.

Pay attention to them.

They are not your enemy.

They are friends helping you to learn stuff better.

Tip 10: When you make a mistake, don’t ignore it. Identify what went wrong and learn from it.

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