Out of complete boredom, my younger brother borrowed my phone to play a Merriam Webster quiz.

And look hey. It’s not for the lack of games in my phone. I have one! A difficult puzzle platformer called Catbird. But my brother only wanted something to waste his time on, not his patience or his brain cells. And I get it; Catbird is basically like Flappy Bird. Definitely not something to just kill off boredom. But when I looked over his shoulder to check on how he was fairing, I was surprised at what I saw.

“What are you doing?” I asked him suspiciously.

“It’s okay,” he reassured me, “I have a plan.”

You know what he was doing? His grand strategy for the Merriam Webster quiz? He was clicking on random choices. Random. Like, zero consideration on whether that choice was the right one or not. I wasn’t surprised at all that he got a really low score afterwards.

I mean, how was that a winning plan?? You’re obviously bound to fail when you don’t think things through.

And then he did his grand game plan the second time. But this time, because the questions tend to repeat and he remembered the answers, he got more questions right. And he did this repeatedly until he passed.

Quite a cheeky strategy coming from my pure little brother, but it worked! So I figured this is something I could apply when playing Catbird. That instead of obsessing over winning, I could just try my best and learn from my failures.

Then I realized… whoa. This is a mindset I could have beyond games. I could apply it in my LIFE.

In this age of instant gratification, we have forgotten the importance of trial and error. I make a case in defense for it and why we need it to succeed. Click to read the post!

Perfectionism in games and in life

See, what I found disconcerting with my brother’s game plan was that it was not what is perceived to be a game plan. This idea of deliberately failing felt like an anti-thesis to the main goal of playing any game – to win. And as a card-carrying perfectionist, I was quite familiar with this.

Succeeding at first try is even next-level dopamine hit for me. And I’m sure it is for other people too. In fact, I recently found something on Pinterest about how to become a superstar blogger at day one, so I know I’m not alone.

The idea of being a successful blogger on your first try is also a kind of next-level dopamine hit. We bloggers have aspired to be that way, at one point or another. And maybe you still are.

The thing is, no one wants to fail.

Failing leaves an unpleasant taste to the mouth. We spray away failure like we spray away bad breath. We wouldn’t want to experience it if we could. This is why we want to succeed at first try. It means not going through all the awful feelings you get when you failed. It means going straight to medal. And foregoing trial and error is a concept that’s too good to be true.

But see, the heavy truth is this: Less than one percent of bloggers – or anyone for that matter – become successful at day one.

I admit, I pulled that number out of nowhere. And it really isn’t reflective of any statistics made on success. But you get my point.

Rarely anyone becomes successful at first try.

I already shared my two cents on failure before, and how it’s important. And I still stand on that ground. Failure is necessary for us to eventually achieve success. But more importantly, it is through failure that we learn from our mistakes. And eventually grow from it. And therefore succeed.

But how could we fail if we don’t give ourselves permission to do so? How could we experience failure and grow when we’re so adamant to avoid trial and error?

The Lost Art of Trial and Error

My mom, a mathematics teacher, taught me that when all else fails, when you can’t think of any other math technique to find the solution to a problem, do trial and error. It is the most underrated yet useful thing you can have for solving math problems.

Surprise surprise, it is also the most underrated yet useful thing you can have for solving any life problems.

But see, the problem with trial and error is that it is tedious. It takes suuuper long to get to the answer. And no one wants to take the long winding path, when they could just go for the shortcut. Honestly, even I don’t want to. But in this age of instant gratification, we’ve somehow completely forgotten the idea of trial and error.

When you start your blog, you want it to be seen and successful at day one.

If you’re trying out a new product, you want to see its effects overnight.

When you take on a new creative project, you expect things to go your way.

But you might not be successful at day one. You may not see if the product is effective until a month of consistent use. Maybe you’d reach a creative dead-end sooner than you anticipated.

You may not succeed at first try but that doesn't make you a failure #quotes
Click to pin!

Maybe all you had to do was change a few things a bit. Tweak your process or try out a different one. Maybe you need to stop thinking things through so much and just click on whichever choice is in front of you. And if you make a mistake, you could always take notes. Eliminate that choice from your list for next time, and move forward.

And maybe, like my pure little brother with his cheeky game strategy, you too will pass your quiz.

I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

What do you think about trial and error? Can you think of a time when you couldn’t wait for the outcome to show? Share them in the comments below!

xx Kate

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5 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Trial and Error: Why we need to try and fail to succeed”

  1. I loved the insight you gave in this post! I definitely wouldn’t be able to think of such an important message from something so seemingly trivial as an online quiz.

  2. Great post Kate! I always tell my kids to fail. Just fail. That there is no shame in it. The next time, you will learn what you learnt previously and succeed at it.

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