Learning the Wrong Lesson – TSMP #80

Matt and Jay discuss why learning the wrong lesson – or the right lesson – after we make a mistake will make all the difference between future successes or even greater failures.

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Intro: You’re Going To Lose. Again. And Again. And Again.

  • We discussed it last time. Yeah it sucks. Yeah it’s a fact. Gotta accept it if we’re going to live in the real world.

What We Tell Ourselves After We Fail

  • Post-failure self talk determines your direction
    • Are you a loser? Do you fundamentally not have what it takes? Are you not smart enough, talented enough, strong enough, courageous enough, creative enough – to actually get the W?
    • Are you really not cut out for this? Maybe you should give up…
  • Honestly, what shitty things do you tell yourself after you fail?
    • All the things…the horrible things…we say to ourselves
    • The wrong lessons

Why We’re So Hard On Ourselves After Failing

  • Often the wrong lessons come from our childhood
    • Parents can be harsh, manipulative or just plain mean to us when we fail
    • Teachers can crush our spirits and limit our belief in ourselves
    • Classmates can be abusive and bully us
    • Other family members and community can be snide, callous or even cruel
  • Can be from adult failures
    • So we slowly learn, over time, that whenever we fail, it’s really, really BAD.
  • May be from traumas
    • Divorce, injury, bad girlfriends, fired at work, 

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose Learn 

  • Question: When a highly successful person fails or makes a mistake, what do they do afterwards? How do they learn the right lesson instead of the wrong lesson?


  • Temple Grandin
    • Growing up autistic, with overwhelming fear, constant sensory overload and problems interacting with people -> Becoming a world-class animal behaviorist, one of the leading authorities on cattle behavior and helping to create dozens of improvements to humanely raising and slaughtering cattle, and the most famous autistic scientist to study and research autism (that is to say, from “inside” the condition)
    • How did Grandin turn her failure into success?
  • Daniel Everett (with the Piraha people in Amazon)
    • Years spent with a dangerous Amazon tribe trying – and failing – to translate the most difficult language on earth -> Eventual success after transforming himself, his world view, his beliefs about culture (and even his belief in God)
    • How did Everett turn his failure into success?
  • Freddie Roach
    • Failure as a boxer – had some good bouts and a solid performance at the beginning of his career but started to fall apart physically and never became famous -> Tremendous success as one of the most winning boxing trainers in history – training superstars like: Manny Pacquiao (8 World titles), Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Oscar De La and even Mike Tyson! – Also trained MMA greats Georges St. Pierre, Tito Ortiz and Anderson De Silva (among others)
    • How did Roach turn his failure into success?

How Do We Stop Learning the WRONG Lessons and Start Learning the RIGHT Lessons?

Step 1. Accept Your Failure (and the pain!)

  • Yeah you screwed up. It sucks. It hurts. That’s okay. It’s part of the process.

Step 2. Become Aware of Your Natural Negative Response To Failure

  • Pay attention to the negative tapes/stories/beliefs playing in your head after you fucked up

Step 3. Figure Out the Truth of the Situation

  • Don’t lie to yourself or others.

Step 4. Choose a Positive, Productive Response To Failure

  • Think of some positive, success-oriented tapes you could play instead that will help you to accomplish your goal
  • For example:
    • How can I use this experience to make me stronger next time? What did I learn that I can use later? What do I want to avoid? What do I need to work on? Who do I need to get close to – or away from? Am I truly passionate enough about this goal to deal with this pain? Is this simply a minor setback or should I focus my energy in a different direction?

Step 5. Go and Do Something Risky and Challenging Again

  • Whatever you want in life, if you truly plan on getting it, if you’re serious…you’re gonna have to pay for it…
    • …but once you’ve succeeded, once you can ride a bike or fly a plane or make a million dollar business or have sex with a beautiful woman…once you’ve learned the skill, you can do it again!

Summary of Learning the Wrong Lesson

  1. Accept Your Failure
  2. Notice Your Shitty Mental Tapes
  3. Figure Out the Truth
  4. Choose a Positive, Productive Response To Failure
  5. Go Do the Thing Again…and Again…and Again…Until you get it!


If you’re learning to ride horses and you get bucked off you have two choices: Get back on a horse or choose never to ride again for the rest of your life.

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