Two of the most commonly used clichés related to human development are completely wrong. The first cliché is “practice makes perfect,” and the second is “learn from your mistakes.” I bet that you have heard these phrases thousands of times—I know I have. They are in books, popular media, and most of all in our common language, but not only are these two easily quotable tidbits of advice deceiving, they end up doing more harm than good. So if these clichés are wrong, what is right?

Practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent

Believing that practicing a skill over and over alone will make it perfect is just like expecting an infant to eventually learn how to write simply by drawing lines and circles over and over. To perfect skill we need precise guidance, repetition, evaluation of those repetitions, and accountability. The commonly known adage “practice makes perfect” should be changed to “practice makes permanent.” By repeating a skill without guidance, evaluation, or accountability we are solidifying our current capability in that skill. If you repeat a skill badly you are solidifying the bad in your subconscious and it will take much more effort in the future to break those bad habits. Don’t be fooled: practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent.

Don’t learn from your mistakes, learn from success

How many times have you been told to learn from your mistakes? Most of us have been indoctrinated with the idea that improvement means looking for what is wrong, and not necessarily on what is going well. The truth is that we improve at much faster rates when we focus on our strengths—on what we do well. Does knowing what doesn’t work indicate what does work? There are an infinite amount of ways to do anything wrong, but usually there is only one way to do it right. The only use of focusing on mistakes is if you can reverse engineer the mistake and rebuild it into a clear actionable plan that may lead to success. Instead of looking at what others have done wrong that leads to fail, look at successful individuals to find what they do to succeed. Focusing on mistakes occupies the mind with failure, and focusing on strengths leads to success.



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