Skip to content

Let yourself look stupid to learn

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

This article from Dan Luu interested me because I notice something with my students.

Sometimes I have students who struggle because they don't get the full mark on their assignments right from the beginning. They don't seem to allow themselves the opportunity to learn.

I believe this is often a problem inherent to the education system, but also one that I play a role in, as well.

When I first started out teaching, I worked with people who were not graded and found they'd never do the work. I decided to upgrade my education so that I could teach at a university and use grades to leverage students to do the work.

Unfortunately, I now worry that this system may not allow students to practice and improve before it affects their grades. Perhaps what I need to implement is a "training wheels" period where mistakes are allowed before it affects their grade.

I'm sure there are other ways to approach this problem, something which I'll consider for the future.

Unfortunately, worrying about looking stupid is a problem I also personally encountered.

When I began writing long ago, people pointed out my grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. I struggled with it for a year before completely shutting down.

This problem turned into a complete writer's block that lasted for nearly fifteen years.

When we started working with our editor, it was still a problem I struggled with.

When she returned our manuscript filled with red, I wanted to argue every change. Angie and I sat down with her and planned on arguing every correction.

It only took us a few hours to burn out and realize that she wasn't working against us, but working with us to help our reader. It also meant we had to abandon our egos.

That's the reason looking stupid is so hard: it threatens our precious ego. We have to push past it and open ourselves up to fail.

Failure shows our weaknesses and pushes us into new areas to test out, try, and learn.


David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


Related Posts

Members Public

What's it for?

Seth Godin recently asked two questions in a blog post: "Who's it for? What's it for?" When writing, do you know who it's for? It doesn't have to be an audience with a capital "A." It doesn't have to be for any audience; it can be for just you. But

Members Public

Journey with your characters

Most people can't have the whole story in their heads. Too many pieces, too many moving parts. That doesn't mean you must plan it out. Once your character's story takes shape, then begin. Allow yourself to be surprised and adapt, and let your imagination take you on a journey. That

Members Public

The lies our characters tell themselves

Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon tells the story of a priest and woodcutter trying to understand a murder by listening to the testimonies of the multiple people involved. Ultimately, they struggle to find the truth amongst the lies. A similar type of story occurs within each of us. We tell ourselves multiple