There is no failure, only feedback

Here is an extract from Richard Boldstadt, a New Zealand neurolinguistic trainer, who talks about failure and feedback.

“… Everything that happens is feedback. Your body doesn’t think; oh it’s too hot, so it’s failed, and shut down. It has no idea of failure… it’s meaningless in nature. There is no such thing as failure in nature… it’s a human idea.  In nature everything is feedback that tells your body what to do next. Right up to the point when it stops functioning as a body by the way. Right up to the point of death your body is constantly adjusting based on the feedback that it’s getting…..that’s life.  Now this is very interesting because sometimes humans get this idea…and it’s the conscious mind…I mean it’s a wonderful thing but it’s got its limitations. And one of its limitations is the idea… that since I’ve set this goal, if  I don’t get there, like if I’m not heading directly towards it, then this must mean I’ve failed. And of course human beings, they aren’t built that way and they weren’t built that way right from the very beginning; when you have little babies learning things. Children learn things very fast in the first 5 years and one of the reasons is that parents are very good at teaching them and they understand the idea of feedback.

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So when a little kid… and I remember when my son said one of his 1st words and it was Da Da, and I was just so proud. But you know here’s what I didn’t do… “NO Dear the actual word in English is Father…let’s try that again:-(Like I’m sorry but I’m going to have to fail you on that one :-(haha not funny though) have another go tomorrow… there’ll be a retest at 5pm :-(So ah, I don’t do that). What I do is say “Wow That’s Great! Listen to this he’s on his way to saying Father…listen to this listen to this, he’s on his way to saying Daddy…He said Da Da.”

So what I do is treat it as feedback and I know it’s that it’s constantly adjusting. Only human beings and only after a certain age have the idea of failure, and success being a black and white thing.

So when a plane is flying (you’ve heard this story?) that when a plane is flying, it’s mostly off course: 95% of the time it’s flying the wrong way and they just constantly adjust …”


  • Only use the word “feedback” with your students, not “failure”

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