Fail Fast, Fail Forward, and Fail Wisely

According to neuroscience if we learn through collaboration and sharing, it helps us to see mistakes more positively

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New Delhi: In science, we learn almost every day, that failure is the path to success. Like Elon Musk says, “Failures are a sign that you are inventing”. We learn best when we are curious. Curiosity welcomes adventures and results in great knowledge. On the way to our “curious” journey, we may sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. Most of our learnings come out of curiosity which is accompanied by many new adventurous processes that can result in great knowledge. Sometimes we call it success or lessons or sometimes “Failures”.
“Failure” is a word that always brings a negative sense to our mind. But we hardly understand the fact that it paves the real foundation of our success. Failures are more common than success. Right from childhood society has taught us to attach connotations to words. We are programmed to believe that failures are negative, and success is positive. However, experiences are never black and white. It is a color palette, the full rainbow, some might say. Each color is a wisdom that must be enjoyed, lived, felt, and share.
“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene.
But its long journey and how to find such experiences or pearls of wisdom in one place? The answer is “FailWise”. Started by a microbiologist Vijay Soni, Ph.D. “FailWise” (A New Delhi-based venture of Scipreneur Pvt. Ltd.) is a social blogging platform for collaborative learning where you can share your experiences and lessons from failures and learn from others.
“Success is overrated, and failures are neglected”, therefore we thought of starting a platform where you can share the wisdom from your failures, and everyone can learn from them”. Join us and let’s celebrate mistakes and effort to learn from them. Your single post, article, or story may help someone to overcome the struggles and challenges they are facing in their life. It can be from any part of life and area,” – says Founder Vijay Soni, Ph.D.
FailWise is a portal of unknown facts, that have not been told before. Brandon Mull represents a clear philosophy of FailWise, “Smart people learn from their mistakes. But the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others.” You can also share your experiences from experiments and research projects that didn’t go well and suggest “what not to do”. It will help many more of those who are planning in the same direction and by reading your post, they may plan better. And yes, there is no cost for this, it is free. Interestingly, you could remain “anonymous” if you wanted to be. Your privacy will be protected.
As Stuart Firestein (From Columbia University in New York City and a writer of book Failure: Why Science is So Successful.) says that “when an experiment fails or doesn’t work out the way you expected, it tells you there is something you didn’t know,” You need to go back and rethink on it. What went wrong and the why? Maybe the hypothesis is wrong or the protocol or simply the execution. Remember “Failure is the most important ingredient in science, and we cannot grow without it”, Firestein.
Similarly, rejections are more painful, specially when we submit our manuscripts and didn’t get an expected review or decision. These rejections can be sometimes personal, opaque, arbitrary, or even discriminatory. Such experiences are part of the research system through which we all progress and learn to grow better and faster. Learning from failures makes science more approachable. As science is not just a setup of geniuses doing series of discoveries one after another it is full of wrong turns and mistakes.
Jo Boaler (who teaches math at Stanford University in California) said in her book Limitless Mind that “people need to give up the idea that one’s ability to learn is fixed, or unchanging.” Instead, she says, we need to see learning as putting us “all on a growth journey.”
Michael Merzenich, a neuroscientist from the University of California, San Francisco shows that how our brain can rewire with time. He proved that our potential to learn, think, and the reason was not programmed from birth. His team mapped different brain cells that fired up when monkeys finished a given task. Surprisingly when they revisited these “brain maps”, they were changed. “Possibly monkeys’ brains had wired new neural pathways,” he decided. This concept was later recognized as “brain plasticity”. Our brain can adapt and change in response to any new experience. He even found that when we learn something new our neural signal fires and reconnects to other neurons in a totally different way. And these synaptic activities will last longer if we practice them regularly.
So, what happens to our brain when we make mistakes? Jason Moser (a psychologist at Michigan State University) did one small study where they asked 25 people to finish a test with 480 questions. And they have recorded brain activity with EEG (Electro Encephalograms). They found an increased brain activity when a participant experienced conflicts between right answers and an error. They also found that participants who responded to their errors with more consideration performed better in the test after making mistakes. He concluded that “by thinking about what we got wrong, we learn how to get it right.”
According to neuroscience if we learn through collaboration and sharing, it helps us to see mistakes more positively. It also helps us to approach failures with confidence rather than just vining about them. Our failures force us to question our hypotheses, ideas, thoughts, knowledge, and opinions. And it is also known as “critical thinking”. This connects us with new thought processes and challenges reasoning to innovate new direction. It is where the valuable questions come from. And asking those questions can ignite new concepts and types of experiments. The greatest thing a scientist can discover is “a novel or better question”. Focus on the learning, growth, and Fail Wisely!