Fail ---> Learn ---> Move On LO25518

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 10/23/00

Replying to LO25486 --

Dear Organlearners,

Roger Key <> writes:

>In discussion I became aware that I was focusing on failure
>and seeing failure as the opposite of success. "I must not fail"
>I would say to my self. BooBoo. The opposite of failure is NOT
>success. The opposite of failure is "not failing". In order to not
>fail you must first fail and then not do it. This is nowhere as near
>as powerful as remembering the opposite od success is "not

Greetings Roger,

You have made indeed an important and also vivid distinction with respect
to learning. I had such a laughter of appreciation for your "BooBoo".

We may compare learning with growing plants to a certain size. Those which
have not yet reached the required size, are not failures. Leave them to
grow some more, perhaps with some fertilizer added, and next time many of
them will be acceptable.

Learning always requires a certain level of complexity to either extend
that level quantitatively (digestion) or to proceed qualitatively to a
next level of complexity (emergence). When that certain level has not been
reached, it merely points to an immaturity, but not a failure.

Kids, for example, are not failures because they are not adults.

What we have to try visualize mentally, is a growth in complexity upon
which we mask (with LEM) "fail"-(immaturity)<-> "success-(maturity).
Levels in complexity cannot be skipped (Law of Requisite Complexity). A
certain level of immaturity is required to proceed to a next level, even
when the latter level is still considered to be immature. Similarly,
obtaining success does not mean that the highest level of complexity has
been reached. Upon this level designated as "success" many other higher
levels are still possible -- "successor successes".

I wish the following would shed some light, but it will most likely not do
so because it speaks of experiences which few have.

I have programmed a Creation Processing Structure (CPS) which I use in my
Computer Assisted Lessons. The CPS is used to guide the learner in
creating free format solutions (answers) to problems (questions) rather
than the usual preformatted answers which the learner then has to choose
to correct one from. The CPS may consist of several hundered of control
feedback loops, linked into chains, the chains into nets and the nets into
a web. It all depends on the complexity of the problem presented.

A very important "directive" is that the chains and webs have to be
arranged in the order of DECREASING complexity so as to give a an
appropiate (positive) feedback on the inappropiate action which the
learner has taken. It tells the learner exactly what inappropiate action
he/she has taken without telling the learner what appropiate action to
take next, yet encouraging the learner to try again. Because of the order
of decreasing complexity, the more complex inappropiate actions are
skipped so as to spot the least complex inappropiate action.

Should this order of decreasing complexity not be adhered to, the learner
gets inappropiate feedbacks which are extremely confusing. This
"directive of decreasing complexity" is a direct consequence of what I
call the Law of Singularity of Complexity. The more complex a solution
becomes, the less it can be spotted by simplistic evaluations.

The teacher has to organise the CPS in advance for each problem, taking
into account all classes of possible immature actions. Making use of a CPS
created by another teacher is rote teaching. It works, but the second
teacher does not have any clue how and why it works.

When the teacher observes how he/she (in advance through the CPS) guides
a learner to evolve into the requisite complexity so as to create an
acceptable/correct/succesful solution, it is a hair raising experience.
Since the teacher has created the web of chains and nets, the teacher can
form a vivid mental image how the learner follows a fractal course in this
web from low to high complexity untill an acceptable solution satisfying
the required criteria has been created.

As the learner struggles through the lower levels of complexity in a
solution, the responses to each class of inappropiate actions are many.
But as the learner moves towards greater complexity, the "boring",
"tuning" or "homing" of the learner to an appropiate solution becomes very
exciting to observe. Fewer inappropiate actions are made and the jump from
one level of complexity to the next is with increasing purpose.

Perhaps the most exciting is the incredible diverse "body langauges"
increasingly expressed as each learner "homes" in on an appropiate
solution. They scratch their bodies, pull faces, make wierd motions,
deform their postures or even become like statues except for the eyes and
fingers moving over screen and keyboard. The bodies become a tell-tale of
how the minds operate at the edge of chaos in order to create an
appropiate solution.

Obviously, the teacher has to learn self how to program a CPS which works
correctly ;-) This does not come as easily as one might suspect.
Initially, CPS instantiations which do not work correctly (fail to spot
certain classes of immature actions or giving wrong responses to
inappropiate actions) are at the order of the day. Each such an incorrect
action of the CPS is a powerful pointer to some rote teaching which the
teacher has never questioned before in himself/herself.

Both the teacher who programs the CPS-instantiation or the learner who
presents a possible creation to it, can become locked up in a "labile
equilibrium" (restricting constraint, mental model). The CPS will pick it
up as a repeating of the same complex loop in the web. If the learner
ends up in a "labile equilibrium", it is OK because it requires the
"double loop" part of learning to break it. (If the "labile equilibrium"
is caused by the teacher failing to provide the correct guiding web, it is
much more serious, something which may be called a teaching failure if not
corrected very soon after discovering it. It is not OK to leave such a
teaching failure in a lesson.) The teacher can then decide upon, say, five
such repeated loops, to branch into a new web designed specifically to
guide the undoing of such a labile equilibrium.

>On the crag I cannot fail, I can only not succede, which
>is success but not as much as I hade looked for.
>Similarly, in business, we in Wales have a high rate of
>business failure. NO WE DO NOT! We have a high level
>of business that does not succede. The only failure is in
>not trying in the first place. To dream and then to push
>dreams to the background and just do what you are doing is not
>avoiding failure it is avoiding success. Believe in the majic of
>dreams and give it a go is success. You may not get the
>dream, you may end up in a worse place than you was before,
>but to try and not succede is the actions of a nobel human - a
>grown up. To not try because you have a focus on failure is
>the actins of a given up.

Thinking of it, climbing mentally the complex web of a CPS is very much
like climbing physically a complex crag!!

I have a fear of heights because of a vivid imagination of what may
happen. Yet, when I see strange plant growing against a cliff, my
curiosity usually overwhelms my fear. But once I have examined the plant
and then have to go down again, I have to battle against the fear, making
very sure that each next hold is very secure. It may seem as if I have
vindicated here the idea of behaving according to algedonic signals.
However, when seeing a plant in this distance over a flat region, there is
no fear here like climbing down against a precipice. If there is a snake
in front on the path, it becomes an issue of making a detour.

I differ in only one respect from you -- the "nobility of trying again
until success has been obtained". This "nobility" is found among children
too! What I observe here in our country South Africa is how, as the child
becomes more involved with organisations, especially the educational
organisation in a formal (public) school, this "nobility" becomes
gradually diminished until it gets extinguished. This "nobility" is
common among young children and much rarer among adults.

But this "extinction of nobility" does occur only in educational
organisations. Political parties, for example, are notorious for branding
a person as a political failure. I do not even exclude religious
organisations. On some occasions they are the "voorbokke" (front goats)
in destroying this "nobility" with harsh judgements rather than
resurrecting it through caring love.

Yes, let us say BooBoo to failures. Let us say BooBoo to LEM
(the Law of the Excluded Middle).

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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