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Create a Culture That Welcomes Mistakes: Principles by Ray Dalio – Philip Mott

Reading notes from January 9, 2019

Work Principle 3: Create a culture in which it is okay to make mistakes and unacceptable to not learn from them.

I’ve found this to be extremely important in our family and in the research I’ve done in the classroom. When we create an environment where making mistakes gets students into some kind of trouble or discomfort we are heading down a dangerous road. The extremely odd thing is that even praise can begin to make this kind of environment. Think with me for a moment — your child comes in with a painting and you exclaim, “Wow! Amazing job!” It feels good, right?! Yes! Then, they win a softball game. “You played awesome!” They score high on a test. “Terrific.” They don’t clean their room. Silent treatment or criticism. Child starts to internalize, “Mom is only happy when I do good. Mistakes are bad.”

Is the child “bad” for not cleaning their room? No more than she is good for doing any of the other tasks. But we’ve started to create an environment where their mistakes are displeasing to us. What do you do when you find out your mistakes are displeasing to someone and you don’t know how to fix the mistakes? You start hiding them.

Know the difference between two kinds of people.

1. “Capable people who made mistakes and are self-reflective and open to learning from them.

2. Incapable people, or capable people who aren’t able to embrace their mistakes and learn from them.”

If Dalio is right about there being two kinds of people regarding mistakes then I have a big responsibility to instill the first characteristics in my children.

How do we do that though? How do we create this culture where children accept mistakes as a part of life and see them as learning opportunities instead of evidence of impending failure?

The Best Kind of Feedba

Page 352 “Reflect and remind yourself that an accurate criticism is the most valuable feedback you can recieve.” Accurate has to be a key word here. Think of how often we assume that just because someone is criticizing me, that they’re wrong. It’s healthy to look at accurate criticisms isn’t it? But it’s unhealthy to consider inaccurate criticisms.

How can we thoughtfully consider someone’s feedback without getting defensive or without believing it fully? What criteria do we use to evaluate feedback accuracy?

I’m trying to think about some of the accurate criticism I’ve heard of myself and the inaccurate ones too. I’m careful of this around my children too. I focus on describing what I see instead of trying to assign value to what I see. One of my favorite examples is of my oldest while he was building a tower with his blocks. The tower kept falling over and he became upset. I’d say, “The tower fell over. You’re upset about it. Would you like to try again or do something else? This was not a criticism. It was just what happened. After responding this way over a few weeks I noticed an increased ability to work through challenging tasks. Sometimes he would walk away from it for a while. He often would come back soon and try again successfully. I feel like this response to him has taught him that I don’t see failure as something to be avoided or worried about but that they always can choose how they respond.

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