In his book Failing Forward, John Maxwell talks about the benefits of mistakes, learning and improving from the experiences we gain, and how by learning to fail forward we actually get ahead of those who are afraid of mistakes and who strive for perfection in stead. To illustrate his point he tells a story about and art teacher who used an unusual grading system for his students. The results of the experiment surprised me, and inspired me, and I’d like to share it with you too.
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the quantity group: fifty pounds of pots rated an A, forty pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on quality, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an A.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work and learning from their mistakes the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
It really does not matter what it is you are doing in life, but the way to get more quality results is not to aim for perfection, but to try and fail, and try again. The main thing to remember is, as John Maxwell calls it, is to fail forward. Happy failing, and getting up again!