So, What Did We Learn?
So what did we learn?
I can hear my wife’s sarcastic and humorously condescending tone as she zapps me again with these words after I step on another LEGO block in the living room. Even though I was wincing in pain, I had to laugh as I pried the rectangular death spike from my foot.
It’s been a running joke around the house for years now and there’s never been a shortage of opportunities to say it to one another. But if we’re being honest, a lot of truth is said in jest.
Stepping directly on the hardest and sharpest object known to mankind in bare feet isn’t exactly what I would call a failure, but it sure-as-hell hurts. Another truth is that it’s a really good question! And one we should be asking ourselves often, especially whenever we’ve just gone through a particularly painful situation.
It’s been said that there is no such thing as failure, just learning experiences. And I’m sure the LEGO corporation would agree, knowing that a few of their own mishaps nearly sent the company into bankruptcy on several occasions. But being the resilient toy innovators they are, they took it on the chin, learned from their mistakes, made changes and kept going, much to the dismay of unsuspecting feet all around the world.
How To Learn From Past Mistakes And Move On
Failing and learning is a lifelong pursuit and one that never really ends. As babies, from the moment we figure out how to stand-up, then immediately fall on our asses, we learn. We learn first how to fall. Then we learn how to better stand. Then we fall again and figure out an even better way to stand. And sometimes we fall a lot.
The same can be said about almost every single thing we’ve ever done. First we fail, then we learn how to fail, then we learn how not to fail, then we succeed. Most of us aren’t born with any internal programming to help us do things, other than sleep and eat, so we have to learn shit the hard way.
“The hard way” is actually how it’s meant to be. That way, when we figure out how to do something we’ve never done, there is a reward. That is, the feeling of satisfaction we get once we’ve figured something out. If we succeeded without effort at everything we’d ever tried, life would be super-boring.
Want a six-figure job out straight of high school? Done. A stunning blonde model girlfriend and lifelong partner at sixteen? Done. How about the time to do whatever you want, whenever you want? Done, done, and done. There’s even a Twilight Zone episode about a situation like this. A man starts getting everything he wants all the time without any struggle, and it begins to make him crazy. Then he finds out he’s in Hell!
The reason why this is a shock to him—and to the viewer—is because so many people think it’s the struggle that’s Hell, and that’s where they’re wrong. The struggle is actually more like the road to Heaven—or at least, to Reward. When things are too easily attained, we tend to lose interest in them just as easily, and even to view them as not really worth having in the end.
Why? Because we are creatures with insatiable appetites—not meant to be quickly satisfied, but instead to be used to strive to attain our wants and desires. So that when we finally receive them after much hard work, we can be proud of ourselves. We can enjoy the fruits of our labor. We can feel rewarded. An added bonus? The world loves those that have experienced defeat on the road to success. And the bigger the shitshow you experienced to get there, the more satisfying the reward will be at the end.
There is a lesson in every failure; an education in every defeat. If you continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, you’re going to learn eventually. Then take that hard-won knowledge and use it to your advantage. When questioned about his failures, Thomas Edison once cleverly framed his response this way: “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
You Can Learn From Past Mistakes And Move On
Learning how to embrace failure is a prerequisite to success. That’s why I encourage you to reflect on your past failures as not only stepping stones, but as necessary milestones put in place to ensure that you not only get to where you’re going, but feel rewarded once you get there.
There’s a certain satisfaction you can only feel from earning your success.
A reward that comes from knowing that yes, you failed, but that you also learned and persevered. That you got your ass kicked and you got up again.
So, the next time you find yourself feeling the sting of failure, don’t forget to take a moment to stop, take stock of what you just went through, and ask yourself, “So… what did we learn?”
And maybe, “Did it hurt as much as stepping on a Princess Barbie LEGO?”
Don’t forget to grab my new book!