I’ve started a new course, Effective Thinking through Mathematics.  One of its core ideas is how making mistakes lead to effective thinking. The course starts out with a few brain teasers for you to solve. I haven’t done any brain-teasers since I left college, and I don’t expect many people do them regularly. This is unfortunate, because the process of solving them is an abstraction of how to solve problems in life.

One thing which became quickly apparent was how a problem seemed easier the moment I wrote it down. That’s amazing. Doing nothing but writing the problem down made it easier to understand. The second step after writing it down was to try the obvious solution. The obvious solution never works, of course. What’s awesome is that you do eventually arrive at the answer after a pile of mistakes. Even if you’re super smart and can do them in your head, you can only arrive at the correct result after a few failures. I know it seems obvious; But in our lives, we rarely have a sense of how we got to where we’ve gotten.

I’m pretty satisfied with my life, it’s full of love, positive challenges, plenty of mental and and physical stimulation and spiritual awareness (of a certain kind…). Thinking consciously about it, I know I’ve gotten to this point because I’ve taken some crazy risks and survived the mistakes. Part of it is luck, no doubt, but part of it  was also my ability to bounce back from failure. That said, until now, I didn’t have a conscious awareness that my successes are built up on my failures. I still avoid doing things I know will lead to immediate failure, but will prove rewarding in the long run.

In a strange way, resolving puzzles which seem completely impossible at first glance has helped me internalise that the road to success is littered with failed attempts.