In her recent TED presentation, Sarah Lewis discussed the importance of corrections after failed attempts. Lewis, an Assistant Professor at Harvard University is the author of The Rise: Creativity, The Gift of Failure, and The Search for Mastery.
“It is one of the enduring enigmas of the human experience: many of our most iconic, creative endeavors—from Nobel Prize-winning discoveries to entrepreneurial inventions and works in the arts—are not achievements, but conversions, corrections after failed attempts.
In her TED Talk, Lewis referenced a practice by Navajo weavers and potters of purposefully incorporating an imperfection, or “spiritline” into their textiles and ceramics. The “intentional flaw” is interpreted by some as an artisan’s expression of modesty-a symbolic concession to imperfection, and as a reminder of the importance of continued refinement. Another interpretation of the intentional imperfection is to ensure a pathway for the continuation of the art forms.
In regard to mastery, Lewis states that, “Masters are not experts because they take a subject to its conceptual end. They’re masters because the realize that there isn’t one.”
Much has been written in written about the various “slow movements”. Slow reading, slow cooking, slow (or deep) learning, and slow thinking are just a few of the areas of recent interest. The focus on purposeful, and systematic paths to learning are well served by recognizing, and incorporating the wisdom found in failed attempts.