Monday, July 07, 2008

Learning from failure

As you know, if you've been with me for a while, I'm a Calvin & Hobbes fan. Today's cartoon was one I had (surprisingly) not seen before.It reminds me of my first (and only) attempt to make a buttermilk lollipop. I bunged a knob of butter into half a glass of milk and left it in the fridge. My experiment was as successful as Calvin's.

Of course, Calvin being Calvin, I doubt that he will have the attention span or the inclination to find out why his experiment has failed, and to explore other means of achieving his goal. I certainly didn't at the time of the Butterscotch Lollipop Incident.

I have certainly had my fair share of failed culinary attempts since then - most of which have been eaten and enjoyed in spite of their 'failure' status. Almost all of them have been improved upon with the next attempt. I have learnt from those 'failures' and some of my dishes are now in great demand. (others have been relegated to the 'never to be repeated' pile).

There needs to be room for failure in our learning journey. Sadly, our results oriented society seems to have little tolerance for 'having a go'. Edison reputedly claimed to have found 1000 ways not to make a light bulb, although I have yet to find a reputable reference for this quote. Whether or not he said it, surely there must be space for a process of elimination? Considering all the 'uction' words associated with reasoning (adduction/abduction; reduction; induction; deduction) - are we really prepared to start putting lines through them until we are left with only one and everything else is considered 'unreasonable'... and which one would that be?

I have been partnered with a variety of people for group work during workshops of various sorts. My all time favourite has to be an other-worldly ballet teacher who couldn't give a fig for perceived wisdom. She started with a blank slate and tried all sorts of possible solutions on for size. I was all for saying, "No, forget that, we know x and y, so we can start our reasoning from here." She would look at me in a puzzled way and ask, "How do we know x and y?" which would cause me to wonder "How indeed!" We wound up with all sorts of interesting answers to the questions set - most of which I knew to be way off base but far more fun than anything I would have come up with. She flitted gaily and completely (to my narrow view) illogically from idea to idea like a cheerful butterfly, little caring whether she happened upon the correct answer - she was having fun. I quickly learned not to stomp the butterfly and instead took off after her like a child - just to see where she would go next.

Never has a lesson been more fun. But it was hard work to overcome my desire to be right and my impatience to get to the right answer in the shortest possible time!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I failed in understanding how to make doable objective. I was near but not quiet there. As I read Tom's blog that you have linked I realised where I was wrong. Thanks Karyn, just what I needed.

Just the sentiments you wrote about, am feeling deep restlessness these days as if some major calamity is to befall Earth. Don't know Karyn, the way things are rapidly moving seems weird. The peace I get is through meditation. I sense the same disenchantment and worry in your writings. Hugs and take care.