Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Successful Learning

While catching up on Macleans magazines, I ran across a profile of James Dyson by Jay Teitel. It's entertaining as well as illuminating -- well worth the read.

The paper version of the magazine used this as the pull quote on page 2 of the story:
The path to discovery is full of mistakes and false leads. You can’t do things if you’re afraid of making mistakes.

"Mistakes and false leads" might also be called "playing," and doing THAT requires me to transcend my parents' "focus on the goal" achievement-oriented upbringing.

But speaking of my parents, here's another Dyson quote -- and this one sounds even more familiar. 
You learn from failure. You don't learn from success.
My mother used to say this. I'd bring home the algebra test on which I'd scored 97%, and she'd ask, "What did you miss?" I'd deflate.

Of course, she wanted me to be humble. But mostly, she knew that to learn, you have to find out what you don't know. Demonstrating what you do know isn't learning -- it's showing off. Although as a grown-up, I'm also reminded that exercising one's competence is also a confidence-booster. 

Still, "learning from failure" is worth remembering about writing. When you get feedback -- whether it's specific "I don't understand the connection between this paragraph and your main point" or a generic "no" of rejection -- that's a chance to learn something. Dyson learned, and he invented a hand-dryer for public restrooms that actually dries your hands. Amazing!

N.B. My mother was often, infuriatingly, right. 
N.B. #2 If Dyson ever invented a vacuum that actually vacuums the room all by itself, I'd buy one regardless of cost.