How to learn from your mistakes

“Make mistakes, learn from them, move on”

“Don’t waste a good mistake, learn from it”

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

I think that’s enough of it. Since we grow up till we climb the ladder of society, our parents, teachers, and many successful life-achievers have given us the advice to “learn from our past mistakes”. It is a down-to-Earth piece of advice: learning from mistakes allows us to overcome hurdles that stymie our progress in the past and enables us to adapt better to changes in today’s ever-changing society. The pioneers of our time, such as Steve Jobs, one of the brightest mind in investing, Ray Dalio, and Nobel-prize winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman all share the traits of recovering from failures rapidly, and come back even stronger.

With this in mind, let’s be honest to ourselves: After hearing these quotes for so many times, how many times have we really managed to completely avoid ourselves from committing to the same mistakes again and eliminate bad habits that we used to possess?

If your answer is none, don’t worry, you are just like most of the people out there. Many of us took a long time, even years, just to recognise their mistakes. The fact that everyone tries to tell us the importance of learning from our own mistakes but not teaching us the way to correct ourselves make it so difficult for us to react to our mistakes efficiently. Fortunately, there are some tricks and solutions to address this ‘repeat-our-mistakes’ situation. The first step is of course to recognise your mistakes in an early stage right after you made a mistake

The willingness to find out mistakes

Many of us took ages just to recognise our mistakes because of the way how we view  mistakes and failures. We’re taught in school, in our families, or at work to feel guilty about failure and making mistakes is a shameful thing. An implied value in many cultures is that our work represents us: if you fail a test, then you are a failure. If you make a mistake then you are a mistake. Therefore, we dreaded mistakes. We will bend over backwards and go out of our way just to prove that we’re not wrong. Most people are willing to go that far and even cheat on themselves. To them, failures are too painful to bear, so the simplest way is to just distort reality so that they do not have to face the harsh truth.

Hence, we must change our traditional perception about mistakes and failures, so that we can get out of our comfort zone and stand up to the mistakes you’ve made. The famous Chinese proverb sums it up:

“Failure is the root of success”

Without failures and mistakes, there’s no way we are going to attain our goals in life, work, and relationship. Repeating the old mistakes we’ve done is shameful, but erring is not. On top of that, we should view mistakes as a golden opportunity for us to become wiser and better positioned to face uncertainties in the future. Once we view mistakes as a norm and are willing to open our heart to them, learning from mistakes is not that hard a thing anymore.

Identifying our Real mistakes

The next step to finding out our mistake is to expose our ideas and opinions to our peers or the public so that we can receive feedback from outsiders and get a more holistic view. The reason why exposure to the outside world is so crucial is because if we keep the idea to ourselves and never share it with other people, we will be biased to think that our idea or product is perfect and overestimate the feasibility of it (This situation is coined with the term ‘overconfidence bias’). For instance, if you keep dedicate your time to working on a flying car project in your own garage and never let it appear in the public’s sight, how would you know if people really like flying cars ?

Once we gain exposure and critical feedback from our peers, the public or the market, there comes the critical part: spotting possible mistakes from the feedback we received. The substantial quality that differentiates competent individuals from the crowd is their ability to adapt to feedbacks efficiently and recognising potential mistakes and blunders that may hinder their progress in the future. The only problem that lies in this method of detecting mistakes is that the mistake detected may be only the ‘surface’ and not the underlying mistake (root cause). This is where the 5-WHY analysis model comes into play.

The 5 Whys technique was developed and fine-tuned within the Toyota Motor Corporation as a critical component of its problem-solving training. It is a simple and straightforward analysis to discover the root cause of a problem by asking yourself ‘Why?’ on a particular question for five times. This explanation may be kind of abstract and I think a concrete example will do good. Consider the situation below:

A robot you’ve built has just broke down

Using the 5-WHYs technique:

Toyota 5 whys example

Aha! We then know that the underlying problem lies on the filter of the pump! Of course, this technique can not only be applied to engineering, but also in tracing mistakes we’ve committed in our decisions. Thus, after receiving feedbacks and using the 5-WHYs technique to find out our underlying mistake, all that is left to do is to refine ourselves and fine-tune our mistakes.

Please always keep in mind that mistakes aren’t meant to be shameful, they’re meant for self-improvement. As soon as you start blaming other people (or the universe itself), you distance yourself from any possible lesson. However, if  if you courageously stand up and honestly say “This is my mistake and I am responsible” the possibilities for learning will move towards you. Admission of a mistake, even if only privately to yourself, makes learning possible by moving the focus away from blame assignment and towards understanding.  Even wise people admit their mistakes, so why shouldn’t you ?



How to be lucky in your life

Luck is one of the things that can be obtained by literally everyone on this world, yet so many complained about their misfortune in life. In fact, I am actually shocked when I get to know that so many people tend to think that luck was unattainable in life. Today, I am going to share some of my perspectives on luck and how we can substantially improve our luck in life.


1. Think positively

The first step to have a lucky life is to think positively about things that happen in your life. Think about it, how can we possess luck when all that is stuffed in our mind is negativity? Imagine this scenario: You are fired by the company which you have worked 20 years in it because of an economic recession. Your subordinates which is in many ways less competent than you, just took over your position. You’ve lost your bread and butter overnight, you still have three kids to raise and your mortgage loan to pay. You can choose to lock yourself in the bedroom and complain about your misfortune all day long, or sit down and think of what to do at this moment to overcome this hardship together with your family. One thing that can be certain is that the sticky situation that you are facing isn’t going to change. Instead of complaining like an immature boy, why don’t you position yourself optimistically and view this as an opportunity for you to rethink about who you are and a chance to pursue your dreams? God always leave many doors opened when he shut one of your window.

2. Surround yourself with positive people

Since we want as many positivity as possible in our lives, we should always surround ourself with positive people, people that can make our lives happy (In fact, many studies show that our happiness is directly proportional to luck as we perceived in our lives). There is always a saying, ” Tell me five of your closest friends and I’ll show you what kind of a person you are ”. Negativity is contagious; it can be spread through words and actions in your everyday life bit by bit. Hence, the easiest and time-saving way to improve your luck is to expose yourself to optimistic peers. You may even start to think of how lucky you are to come across those people in your life !

3. Pursue knowledge and observe things

Knowledge is power. Knowledge is also the source of luckiness. Many people may wonder, what does knowledge have to do with luck in our lives? This question can be easily answered by throwing out more questions such as: Is Jeff Bezos lucky to catch on the rapid development of the Internet when he build Amazon? Is Warren Buffett lucky to build his wealth in the stock market when the American stock market is in its golden era? Is Bill Gates lucky because his mother is on the board of director of IBM and this leads Microsoft to get the contract for the operating system, which eventually makes Windows the default operating system of every PC?

The opportunity is there for everyone, Jeff Bezos isn’t the only one to be there when the Internet is growing rapidly and millions of people grow up in the same era as Buffett in the same country. Why only few of the population saw what was coming? Are the rest of them truly unlucky? No, it was because they simply do not contemplate what was happening around them. The depth of their thinking and knowledge render them unable to capitalize on the opportunities that they are given. Every ‘lucky’ guy is ready to act on the chance they are given and that is what makes them ‘lucky’. Knowledge enables them to discover chances around them and gives them the ability to tackle on these life-changing opportunities. There is no way Bill Gates will be offered the operating system contract by IBM if he doesn’t have a sensible business plan and impressive business acumen. The source of his luck comes from his ability and his ability comes form accumulating knowledge and constant learning.

Set you goal to be a little wiser everyday, because that means being a little luckier everyday.

4.  Treat others kindly

One of the by-products of treating other people well is being able to gain more luck in your life. Little pleasant actions such as offering your seat to an old lady in the bus, buying breakfast for homeless and sharing your happiness with your colleagues in your everyday life will establish you as a ‘positive person’ in other people’s mind. Remember the old axiom “If you treat people well, people will treat you well” ? It is highly likely that people around you will go out of their way to support you when you are facing downturns in your life if you be kind to everybody. Their support will make the initially depressing situation less deplorable and unexpectedly turn it into only a small problem for you. Besides, people will be willing to share their knowledge and insights with you, they would’ve also thought of involving you when they come across a rare opportunity that will benefit both of you. This can turn out to be the greatest source of luck in your life.

5. Visualise success

How well do you think you will perform on a date, job interview, or sporting event if your thoughts are filled with reasons you will fail? The odds would not be in your favor. The best athletes see themselves winning a game long before it starts. The best stage actors imagine an audience exploding with laughter and applause before they set foot on stage. If you’re going to a job interview, imagine how thoughtful your responses will be during your drive. If you’re preparing for a date, imagine how classy / handsome / sexy / funny the other person will find you while you get dressed. You must first see success happen before you can make it happen.

I think most of you have probably realised that all these steps above aren’t any big secrets. Everyone knows it and they are not that hard to implement, yet many still fail to realise that luck is already on your side. Being able to carry out day-to-day activities without difficulties, being able to see your parents everyday, being able to read this post comfortably at home.

Having a normal day is perhaps one of the best thing that happen to us 🙂