This weekend I took part in a quiz show on national TV. Okay, it was on Friday evening, there was something happening in the USA the same day and you may have been a little tense or preoccupied. Actually most people I know didn’t see me as I knew I was going to lose and didn’t shout about it too much.
The point is that I didn’t do my best that night and afterwards I had to decide what to do about it. I know my general knowledge is good and I enjoy appearing on TV. I had the choice either to give up or to try again.
As children we spend hundreds or hours learning to talk to walk and to read and write. We make mistakes, learn from them and try again. And the vast majority of people grow up to be experts at talking, walking, reading and writing. Yet somehow as adults we fall into the habit of giving up almost the first time we fail at something. This completely disregards what we all understand about learning. As adults we develop an arrogance that tells us we should be good at something the minute we first try it.
There is little evidence to back up this approach. James Dyson made five thousand prototypes for his vacuum cleaner. JK Rowling received “loads” of rejections before her first Harry Potter manuscript was published. In other words, they never gave up, either in the learning process, or when faced with rejection of all their hard work.
Just to echo my point, I received a Facebook message from a stranger following my TV appearance last week. The stranger turned out to be a former Mastermind champion no less, and he urged me not to give up. For a stranger to say this was kind and encouraging and echoes exactly the point I’m making. Like a baby learning to walk, we have to pick ourselves up and keep trying.

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