Which is better? To avoid mistakes altogether, or to watch for your mistakes, expecting them on a daily basis?
The answer may surprise you.
Back in the 90’s, IBM built a computer called Deep Blue. It played chess. In 1997, it actually beat Garry Kasparov, a world champion. Unlike human players who rely on intuition, it worked by calculating thousands of potential moves every second. And, it was good enough to take down a human world champion.
In contrast, TD-Gammon is a computer program that plays another classic game—backgammon. But instead of being pre-programmed with an extensive knowledge-base, it’s programmed to simply learn from its mistakes. Each time it plays someone, it makes adjustments to its strategies based on what worked and what didn’t.
When Deep Blue was fired up for its now famous match against Kasparov, programmers had to use a crazy-complex cooling system just to keep the thing running. It takes a lot of power to shuffle through every possible move every second! TD-Gammon, on the other hand, becomes more efficient the more it plays. Like a person, it learns from its mistakes and becomes a better player over time.
So, which is better?
In theory, Deep Blue didn’t make mistakes, but it couldn’t learn, either. Said another way, it would never get any better. That’s true because mistakes, while painful, are how we grow.
“I am nothing special; just a common man with common thoughts, and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect I have succeeded as gloriously as anyone who’s ever lived. I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me this has always been enough.”
– Duke (James Garner), The Notebook (2004)
What does it mean to succeed in life?
Duke got it. Success is as simple as real, lasting connection with another. This is true for both women and men. We’re all hardwired to crave relationship. Our connections with other people give life its greatest purpose.
But sometimes men lose sight of this basic truth. By nature, men tend to focus on goals and achievements, and it’s easy for non-relationship goals to take center stage. That’s fine when it happens for a short while. It can even be good as it allows for razor-sharp focus. The problem occurs when a man forgets to bring his attention back to his relationship with you once a mission has been accomplished.
Let me explain why this happens to men. Imagine what life was like for humans thousands of years ago. Men were typically hunters. The man would leave his family and go out into the wild to find food. Why? Because he loved his family and wanted to provide for them. Relationship was his ultimate goal. By hunting, he was providing for his family.
When he succeeded, he felt joy because of what it meant for his family. But the thrill of the hunt, developing new skills, and seeking prestige among fellow hunters can cause a gradual shift in attention. Seeking success in hunting can gradually remove his focus from his partner or family.
Ruth Wakefield thought she’d made a mistake. She expected the chocolate to melt. It didn’t. But guests of the Toll House Inn loved the dessert anyway, and chocolate chip cookies were born.
There are times in life when success catches you off guard like that. In spite of your best planning, things can go horribly wrong or unexplainably right. Of course, you can learn a lot by reflecting on your own stories of success. But sometimes the best course of action is to skip the analysis and simply do what you did again.
We call that “modeling” behavior. It’s a powerful technique, whether you’re modeling your own behavior or someone else’s.
In fact, one of the fastest ways to accomplish a difficult task is to find another person who has already mastered it. Then, just do what they did. Model their success-building behavior.
Healthy boundaries aren’t just good for your relationship. They’re essential.
In fact, it’s nearly impossible to have a mature, healthy relationship without boundaries. The problem is that most of us think of walls when we think of boundaries, and that gives the impression of closing yourself off. But that’s not really what healthy boundaries do.
Deepak Chopra uses a powerful metaphor to describe boundaries in a relationship. He says they’re like a screen door. A good screen door will allow a cool breeze to come in while keeping leaves and bugs out. Said another way, well defined boundaries keep the bad stuff out while still allowing the good stuff into your life. Continue reading