Overcoming Failure. Killing Mister Perfect

May 22, 2024

Bear with me as we look at the following:

  • How we think we face failure and how we really do
  • What we tend to be blind to
  • Have an honest look at our life
  • What can we look for to spot blind spots?
  • Create the possibility for choice as we understand something about ourselves.

Probably one of the most fascinating books I have read in the last 5 years is the book Black Box Thinking.

It is a book about our relationship to improvement, and especially to acknowledging failure or failure to do so and how that is keeping us from revolutionizing and improving important systems.

It speaks about the culture we have around failure and what that creates.

We, as humans, like to think that we are pretty open-minded, love to improve and learn, and that we if presented with a challenge to our belief, would respond openly to it.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We evolved to survive and protect our lives and self-image as we have mixed bodily survival with our identity/what we believe, think, opinions, and what we think others think of us.

In the book, we see how easy it is to fall into false "assumptions" about our own doing.

Examples of the healthcare system, aviation system, and justice system, which, if you acknowledge it, let you realize how inclined you, too, must be for prejudice.

For me, this book has opened my mind to so much of my own behavior, my false ramifications, and what my tendency is when met with opposing or challenging statements or data that indicate that I might not have done as well as I thought I did or indicating that I have made a mistake.

"When we are confronted with evidence that challenges our deeply held beliefs, we are more likely to reframe the evidence than we are to alter our beliefs; we simply invent new reasons, new justifications, and explanations."

There are numerous examples in the book of false convictions which, when years later, turned out to be wrong through DNA testing, the prosecutors would hold firm their belief that the falsely accused were guilty.

Doctors killed a patient who couldn't acknowledge that due to cognitive dissonance between what they thought happened and what really happened.

Captains of airplanes who made documented mistakes would still claim to have done everything right, not because they lied, but still believed it to be as they first thought.

Now, this goes both ways; for negative and positive feedback, if it doesn't sit with what we deeply down think is true, we can brush off the most sincere compliments and challenges.

When looking at what works and what doesn't, we might be wise to take into account that we are wired to look away from painful realizations and follow rather what we already believe than alter it to something closer to what is going on.

This can mean a massive loss of performance and your ability to impact your own life (think about what people believed 500 years ago and what we know today).

Going beyond that requires us to go beyond our own certainty and righteousness.

Now, going over how this book could be applicable to you.  You might want to:

- Look at your income

- Look at your relationships

- Look at your health

- Look at the time you spend

Are they as you'd like them to be?

It is easy to go and justify your reasons for why things aren't as you'd like them to be.

But more likely than your reasons being true, what's behind your not achieving them is that you have false assumptions about how these things work, what your reasons for failing them are, and some beliefs that simply aren't working.

At least that's the case for me as I repeatedly discover how absolutely wrong I can be about things, yet still argue for them. It makes you wonder how we manage to go around with an ego bigger than Mount Everest.

But hey, we manage :-)

To end this book takeaway, I want to share some of the things I actively look for that indicate blindspots for me:

  • Defensiveness
  • Being unclear
  • Judging others who have results in the areas, I don't
  • Procrastination
  • Justifications
  • Blaming
  • Fearfulness

When you start to see how your mind operates, you get to create a choice, whether your initial reactions are what you want to pursue or if you are who you say you are, beyond the mechanisms we all fall under.

I believe it's worth the investigation.

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