Speed and Perfection Are the Enemy of Hard Learning

“Speed and perfection are the enemy of hard learning” says Carol Dweck in her insightful book Mindset. When we praise our students for doing things quickly and without error we tell them that speed and perfection are more valuable than challenge and failure. Yet to truly master difficult things we need to put ourselves into the path of challenge and failure as much as possible and there learn to process and learn from it.

This is something I think of as both a teacher and a student. When I’m giving praise to my students am I rewarding them for their efforts or am I telling them that they need to be perfect to get my love? When someone does something exactly as it should be and I say “Perfect!” am I focusing on their efforts or telling them they should avoid any situation that will not allow them through without failure?

Carol says when she gives a student a challenge and they get through it quickly and without error that no praise should be given. Instead she responds with “Whoops! Apparently what I gave you was too easy. Sorry for wasting your time. Lets do something you can really learn from!”

Lets praise ourselves and others for process, effort, strategy, and perseverance. These are the qualities that will truly lead to success over the long-term.