Sunday, October 2, 2011


"Whether you think you can or think you can't -- you're right"
Henry Ford.

I came across the following life enhancing research report today from ScienceDailyScience News’ that I’d like to share with you:

“A new study, published in the journal Psychological Science, has found that people who think they can learn from their mistakes have a different brain reaction to mistakes than people who think intelligence is fixed.

In this study, Jason S. Moser of Michigan State University and his colleagues gave participants a task that was easy to make a mistake on. While doing the task, participants wore a cap on their heads that recorded electrical activity in the brain.

When someone makes a mistake, their brain makes two quick signals: an initial response that indicates something has gone awry -- the ‘oh crap' response -- and a second that indicates the person is consciously aware of the mistake and is trying to right the wrong. Both signals occur within a quarter of a second of the mistake. At the conclusion of the experiment, the researchers surveyed whether participants believed they could learn from their mistakes or not.

The results show that people who think they can learn from their mistakes do better after making a mistake -- in other words, they successfully bounce back after an error. Their brains also react differently, producing a bigger second signal, the one that says ‘I see that I've made a mistake, so I should pay more attention’.

The research indicates that these people are different on a fundamental level, Moser says. ‘This might help us understand why exactly the two types of individuals show different behaviors after mistakes.’ People who think they can learn from their mistakes have brains that are tuned to pay more attention to mistakes, he says. This research could help in training people to believe that they can work harder and learn more, by showing how their brain is reacting to mistakes.”

The power of attitude

Now isn’t that fascinating and life enhancing! Your attitude and beliefs about mistakes, learning and feedback makes a huge difference to how you respond to the world. Remember the blog post I wrote about ‘Learning from Feedback’? In it we explored how there is no such thing as failure, there’s just powerful and useful feedback. In light of the above research, you might want to give it a quick read to refresh your mind about this cool and life enhancing distinction.

Thinking Tool – Feedback

"No failure, only useful feedback!"

The process of Intelligencing

All of this comes together in what I like to think of as ‘Intelligencing’. That is, I believe that intelligence is not a fixed commodity, it’s not an object, but instead is a process, a set of skills and unconscious competencies. Your attitude to feedback and ‘mistakes’ is a core competency of intelligencing.

When you setup your unconscious filters to be able to use and appreciate the learnings and feedback of so called ‘mistakes’ then your brain reacts more intelligently to the information and rather than cognitive dissonance kicking in and limiting your learnings, instead you are able to intelligently use the feedback to learn and improve your self and your life. This creates a positive self-fulfilling cycle of ongoing learning and improvement. It generates more intelligencing.

It’s a cool distinction and powerful concept to apply in your life. I hope you find it as life enhancing as I do.

So embrace the research and the thinking tool above ‘No failure, only useful feedback!’ and turn all your ongoing mistakes into great opportunities for learning and improving your life.

many life enhancing smiles,


  1. This is such an important lesson everyone who makes mistakes (in other words, everyone!) needs to learn. We can't un-make a mistake, but if we have cultivated the right attitude we can instantly readjust and "successfully bounce back."

  2. Hi Grant. Nice to meet a fellow Aussie on the blogasphere. This is a lovely post, well written and it's such an important thing to understand. To put it simply - we are what we think.

  3. Hey Jean, you are so, so right! Everyone makes 'mistakes' at some time, the key is to use them to learn and move forward rather than upsetting ourselves over the learnings and feedback.

  4. Heya Happyhonkers! Thanks for the kind and thoughtful feedback. Yup, it is great to meet fellow aussie bloggers. I've checked out your blog and I like what you are saying. So thanks again for reading and commenting. I appreciate your input.

    smiles, Grant

  5. Hi Grant!

    This is my second favorite of your posts. I like your style, your lightness, your practical application of ideas. You present information to people in a usable form.

    Warm wishes and good thoughts for your success!

  6. Hey Sue,

    Thanks for your incredibly kind comments! I think your blog is pretty damn cool as well. And I really like your take on how belief in ourselves is the key to overcoming errors and learning from mistakes. I recommend that people take a read at:

    cheers, Grant

  7. Great blog Grant! Thanks for sharing this. Cheerings, Phil

  8. Hey Phil, it's a pleasure! Thanks for the thanks and for the very kind comment.

    smiles, Grant

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