“If a student of virtually any discipline could avoid ever repeating the same mistake twice – both technical and psychological – he or she would skyrocket to the top of their field.” – Josh Waitzkin, International Master in Chess and World Champion in Taiji Push Hands in The Art of Learning
If you think about it, you may realize that “avoid ever repeating the same mistake twice” is impossible to achieve.
What’s interesting though is how often people keep repeating the same mistake all over again without making the smallest attempt at fixing it.
Are they simply stupid? No – they’re just too busy to stop and realize their mistake in the first place.
Like in that famous anecdote from the woodwork industry: “I don’t have the time to sharpen the saw – I’m too busy sawing.”
Time for reflection is recommended since ever. For example, already in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, the author and self-help icon shares a story of a self-made man from Wall Street:
“For years I have kept an engagement book showing all the appointments I had during the day. My family never made any plans for me on Saturday night, for the family knew that I devoted a part of each Saturday evening to the illuminating process of self-examination and review and appraisal.“
The questions he asked himself about his every engagement:
- What mistakes did I make that time?
- What did I do that was right—and in what way could I have improved my performance?
- What lessons can I learn from that experience?
I have a hunch I’m not exactly telling you something groundbreakingly new here. But I also have a hunch that you – like most people – might not yet be systematically reflecting on what happened to you and what you can learn from it.
I get it – it’s not a task that would scream at you “Do me now!” (like a ringing phone would). It’s not a “Nice escape from reality” like scrolling through your Instagram feed either.
But maybe that’s where the payoff of reflection actually gets appealing. You may become one of the few who spot their mistakes early – and skyrocket to the top of your field.
Just pick the right spot in your Google Calendar.