Every person, no matter how bright or
slow he is, learns some facts quickly and has trouble with others.
Those he learns easily require little
outside help. It is the troublesome fact, the error-causing fact, the fact that
blocks the road to understanding that we must concentrate upon.
The telltale symptom of trouble, of
course, is a mistake in your work. Most people are troubled by such mistakes.
They do not realize that if they are handled correctly, they are worth their
weight in gold.
Why? Because a mistake is actually
nothing more or less than a signpost in your work that identifies
And by analyzing what went wrong in each
of those mistakes, and correcting it, you will achieve a far deeper level of
understanding and competence than you could ever gain without them.
This is perfectly in accord with prime
rule of all self-improvement – work on weaknesses. Your strengths you will
always have. But your weaknesses must be identified and gone over and over again
until they are no longer there.
Let us therefore examine this technique
of turning a mistake into gold. It is as simple this:
HOW YOU CAN PROFIT FROM YOUR
It is never enough for you simply to
glance at a test when it is handed back to you and notice that you have made an
error on it.
For every test error (or any error on
any work) that you make, you must be able to answer these three questions about
that error before you go on to new work:
Where in the problem did you
make the mistake?
What did you do wrong that
caused you to make that mistake?
What is the correct operation
that will avoid that same kind of mistake in the future?
Let’s see how these three questions turn
errors into accomplishments.
STEP ONE: LOCATE THE ERROR
For example, let’s say that you come up
with a wrong answer in a profit and loss problem.
You know that the answer is wrong, but
where exactly did it go wrong?
Was it a mistake in multiplication or
subtractions, or addition inside the problem?
Was it only one mistake or
To find out, break the problem down into
steps. Check each step to find out which one went wrong. Don’t rest till you can
pinpoint the exact step where each error occurred.
STEP TWO: FIND OUT WHAT CAUSED
Now, when you’ve located the exact spot
where the error occurred, you have to identify its cause.
Let’s say that it was a mistake in one
of your percentages. You took a 47% mark-up on $500 worth of goods, and came up
with a sales price of $745.
What caused you to make this
Was it simply carelessness? Or is that
mistake a warning that you’re weak in your multiplication?
STEP THREE: CORRECT THE CAUSE OF THE
If it was carelessness, review again the
techniques of checking an answer to make sure its right.
If, however, you do show a weakness in
multiplication, stop everything and review multiplication. Do it over and over
again until it becomes automatic and automatically right.
Remember, you have to correct the cause
of an error before you can permanently correct the error itself. If you do not
correct the cause first, the error will simply repeat itself later
STEP FOUR: CORRECT THE ERROR
Now take a fresh sheet of paper. Copy
the problem onto that paper and work it again.
This time it should come out right. If
it does, file it away and come back to it the following week. Try it again on a
fresh piece of paper.
If you get it right again, then you can
forget about it. If not, do it again. Never allow yourself to make the same
STEP FIVE: DO SIMILAR PROBLEMS TO MAKE
SURE YOU’VE GOT THE CORRECT TECHNIQUE
At the same time, give yourself several
other mark-up problems. Concentrate on them. Within a short time you’ll have
mastered them all, and the correct answers will flow from your pen, with perfect
IN SUMMARY:?Follow this same technique with
every mistake you make.
Break the problem down into
steps.?See which step
went wrong.?Find out
why.?Correct the cause
of the error.?Work the
problem the right way.?And keep doing it over and over again until the right answer is
This way mistakes help rather than harm
you. You won’t make that mistake – or its first cousin – again. You have removed
a misunderstanding-roadblock from your mind.
This process of turning errors into
achievements is one of the finest forms of review. We now turn to a complete
discussion of this all- important subject