Mistakes: The Strongest Way to Learn

“It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s not ok to half-ass.” In this episode, I explore three different methods of learning and how I use them with maximum purpose. However, one method seems to be the strongest for me, and I embrace it and keep moving forward.

Learning is a life-long journey to that every leader should dedicate themselves. You will encounter an infinite amount of situations where your leadership skills will be tested, so dedicating time to learning will be critical to your overall success. The following is my perspective on three different methods of learning, and which method can be the strongest when applied properly.

Theory a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.

Reading, watching, or listening to documented information based on actual events or notional ideas is probably the easiest way a leader can learn. If you have access to the information, you are in the driver’s seat to learn at the speed of consumption. You can also reference or re-consume the information at your discretion, which often reveals different angles or new insights not previously discovered. For the military professional, the most common practices are the material and concepts presented through Professional Military Education (PME). Based on your current or projected level of responsibility, you are introduced or reminded of both core and rising information that should be relevant to the challenges you will soon be or are currently facing. For the CrossFit athlete, the foundational theory is captured in the CrossFit Level 1 Course and CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide. I am actually consuming this information again to remain consistent in sharpening my coaching skills and never get stagnant. Leaders should be cautious of thinking “I’m an expert in that, I don’t need to redo it.” Take the time to go back to the fundamentals, it is worth it to keep learning.

Practicerepeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency.

Now that you understand the concepts of a given subject matter, now it is time to put your knowledge into action. However, the optimal place to practice is within a controlled environment where the consequences of your efforts are not permanent. This could be conducting a mission rehearsal with all partners involved so that everyone knows their role within the overall operation, or executing a snatch or clean and jerk with lighter weights to dial in your technique. When properly used, both efforts can provide tremendous learning results because you are taking what you have learned, and getting those thoughts out of your mind and into reality. Consistent practice is also key to learning. We often use the term “muscle memory” to describe an action that one has performed so many times that the body can perform the activity with little or no concentration. Be sure to practice the right things right, or else you could be cementing a poor habit that will be difficult to overcome. Similar to Theory, Practice is under your control to execute at your discretion, so use it wisely to continue to learn.

Mistakesan error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.

When knowledge is applied to real-world situations, consequences are real. Success can be achieved through the correct application of knowledge gained, yet mistakes are also a possibility due to incorrect application regardless of how much you feel you have mastered a subject or activity. While successes will feel great when achieved, those feelings are often fleeting. Mistakes are where one will learn the most because those events will be buried deeper in the mind and last longer. Mistakes can eat away at your mind if not properly managed, but you must not be afraid to make them. If you are, you are missing out on the strongest method of learning. Mistakes shouldn’t be feared, but rather understood as a potential that must be managed to avoid as much as possible. Study your ass off, be disciplined in your practice, and execute. If you make a mistake, keep going. Take those mistakes in stride, adjust your approach, and do it again. As the great Rocky Balboa says, “It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”