Three Things We Learn from Other People’s Struggles

Librarianship | September 15, 2016

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Sometimes we learn more from challenges and failures than from successes. Read three reasons why looking behind the scenes at the long road to achieve success can be a valuable and motivating experience.

Whether it’s the sleek cover models in the latest fashion magazines or the game-winning touchdown played and re-played in slow motion; we’re fascinated with perfection and success.

But admiration doesn’t always equal inspiration. Recent studies have shown that rather than seeing these ideal images as role models, people are motivated more by witnessing the struggle rather than just seeing the success. Here are three things we can learn from other people’s challenges.

You don’t have to be born with it.

A recent study cited how teenage girls studying science benefited positively from learning about the struggles of real scientists. Once the teenagers realized that many scientists underwent years of personal and professional challenges before finding success, it made the final result seem more attainable. They were able to understand that natural ability isn’t the only factor to success and that innate talent is rare and only one part of the equation.

Success isn’t easy.

Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, “Our greatest weakness is giving up. The most certain possibility of success is trying one more time.” In fact, after the invention of the light bulb, Edison told a reporter how many attempts it took before he “saw the light.” When the reporter asked how it felt to fail 10,000 times before getting it right, Edison responded, “I’ve not failed. I just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.” Realizing that success takes time makes the bad days, ill-fated tries and countless do-overs easier to overcome.

What to do or NOT do without risk.

In an interview with Strife Journal, avid reader, General James Mattis, explained the importance that reading played in his military life. “The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.” Hearing about the experiences of others helps us see more ways that various experiences or scenarios can play out, without personal risk or harm.

Libraries can help.

Libraries are in a unique position to be able to offer readers resources in print and digital formats or to host events or reading groups focused on biographies. For libraries using the Flipster digital magazine newsstand, Current Biography magazine is a convenient resource for learning about real people and their stories and struggles.

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