• Ian Gibbs

Student Tip 9: Make Mistakes


Making a mistake is a bad thing, isn’t it?


Yes... and no. It depends.


If you’re a brain surgeon or a Jumbo Jet pilot or a nuclear scientist, then yes—a mistake can most definitely be a bad thing.


But if you’re a student, making a mistake isn’t so bad. If you’re learning something new, it’s normal. It’s to be expected. It’s all part of the process.


Go to the ice rink and watch a figure skater practise. See how many times he falls down.


Go to a studio and watch an actor in rehearsals. See how often she forgets her lines.


Go to the circus and watch a pair of jugglers trying to learn a new set. Count how many times they drop their juggling balls again and again and again.


Anybody who’s trying to learn anything makes a mess of it, and often.


You learn something by trying to do something difficult. When you try to do something you can’t do, you make a mess of it, whether it’s trying to juggle, do long multiplication, speak a new language or write a prize-winning essay.


Getting it wrong doesn’t mean you’re stupid.


Getting it wrong shows you’re trying to do something that for the moment is beyond your capabilities and that’s great because that’s how you stretch yourself.


That’s how you learn.


If you’re worried about making mistakes, it’s going to cause you stress. It’ll stop you from trying new things and stretching yourself.


Rather than trying to avoid making mistakes at all costs, accept them as part of the process.


Don’t worry, be happy that you’re progressing through the learning process.


If you accept that making mistakes is okay, you can relax a little.


You’ll find it easier to start.


You’ll find it easier to explore.


You’ll find it easier to learn and you might even enjoy it a little more.


While your classmates are still waiting, unsure of what to do to get a perfect result, you’ll have already started, if not finished.


You get much more out of an activity if you start than if you just stare at a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper for half an hour.


So the next time you get it wrong, don’t deduce that you’re hopeless. You tried, and that’s a good thing. Keep at it. Keep making mistakes. Sooner or later, things will start clicking into place.


Tip 9: Don’t feel bad about making mistakes; accept them— it’s an important part of the learning process.


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