“In her absorbing first book, veteran journalist Tugend confronts a common but complicated subject: making mistakes. Tugend investigates the fear of failure and shame of messing up that pervade American society (though we’re not alone); unsurprisingly, the fear starts early and is reinforced often. Ultimately Tugend succeeds, by stripping mistakes of their power to intimidate and effectively redefining them into malleable, manageable learning tools.”
“Those optimistic about the nation’s economic future (and count me as one) look to a litany of American characteristics that presage its revival: our comfort with risk and reinvention, a national confidence buoyed by short-term memory, even individual greed and bit of wishful thinking.
A new book by New York Times consumer columnist Alina Tugend throws a new twist to that picture by pointing out an American shortcoming: Our resistance to confronting mistakes — and learning from them — before they turn into catastrophic blunders. The message of Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong is cultural, not economic. But it’s a timely one coming this month — the third anniversary of the collapse of Bear Stearns, which kicked off a financial crisis that continues to haunt the lives of more than 13 million unemployed Americans.”
“One of my favorite sayings (maybe because I created it!), is “Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.” The idea is that winning feels good, but often doesn’t lead to any learning. Growth is usually only reserved when things go wrong. That’s the idea behind a new book called Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong by Alina Tugend. Alina writes the popular and wildly insightful New York Times column, ShortCuts.”
The Vancouver Sun
“Entertaining and brightly-written.”
Better By Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong by Alina Tugend is a wonderful foray into the conundrum of not making a mistake (and therefore not learning nor making any discoveries); and re-learning how making a mistake (and taking ownership) will actually benefit readers in all aspects of life.
Don’t be fooled by the sometimes humourous tone. This book is well researched and digs into areas once thought off-limits for learning – such as certain air disasters and health care mistakes. But instead of giving lip-service to the learning from that mistake, Tugend delves into its history, culture of that society (workplace and other) and the many other causes of not only the mistake, but the immediate finger pointing and final resolution.
“Throughout her charming and illuminating book, Tugend displays a winning sense of humor even as she fearlessly examines more serious aspects of making mistakes.”
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“Tugend’s research is extensive and well explained; she skillfully shows that everyone from CEOs to doctors to parents is affected by this inability to admit mistakes, and we’d be better off accepting that “perfection is a myth.” That doesn’t mean we’re settling for less, but rather allowing for more creativity and communication—and who could argue with that?”
InBubblewrap from 800CEORead
“This is the great lesson about this book, which looks at mistakes in business culture, education, medicine, between genders, and between our own ears, without ever indulging in ‘I’m Okay; You’re Okay’ advice…reading a book like Better by Mistake, chockful of evidence and anecdote, is a terrific reminder that perfection is over-rated, criticism is a tool, hindsight is only useful if you leave judgment out of it, and, to be human is to be a work in progress.”
The Saybrook Forum
“In a landmark publication, Alina Tugend furthers the theory and research about human error. Tugend heralds the good news that human beings, no matter the degree or frequency of mistakes they’ve made, are not themselves mistakes. With that understanding, she takes the reader into deep waters looking at the medical advances that have resulted from mistakes, the fear that American society has attached to mess-ups, and the all encompassing shame that results from falling from the throne of perfection.”
“Research on the fear of failure is fascinating. Children praised as “really smart” opt for easier puzzles to keep looking smart, while those praised as “hard working” try more difficult problems. And for children who believe that hard work doesn’t improve intelligence, mistakes mean they’re stupid. This adulation of talent over effort in the adult world has led to some of the worst failures of modern times: Enron, the recent global financial crisis, lost lives in plane crashes and at hospitals. (Interested? Read the book.)”
Choice Review (Academic)
This insightful book provides an interesting perspective on a common occurrence in human behavior–making mistakes. Although Tugend (journalist) integrates empirical research findings into anecdotal accounts, her writing style
understandably is more journalistic than scholarly. She focuses primarily on how one’s environment influences the perception of mistakes, specifically on how expectations can influence performance. She does, however, also include
some information on genetic indicators, cultural influences, and gender differences. The author raises some interesting questions about fundamental issues in the social sciences (effort versus ability, nature versus nurture, perception versus reality) that have relevance beyond academics and the workplace, e.g., in the arts and athletics. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers.
“(A)sk those who work there what’s different about the Silicon Valley culture, and they’ll often say the one key difference is a tolerance for mistakes…We’re told from childhood that we’re supposed to learn from our mistakes. But in our workplaces and elsewhere, the reality is that we’re often punished for them. We’ve come to abhor error and hesitate to acknowledge mistakes when we make them. That, in turn, creates a culture “where people spend enormous amounts of energy blaming each other when something goes wrong rather than finding a solution,” writes Alina Tugend.
The Huntington (W.V.) News
“In her very readable book — which draws on both real-life mistakes and academic studies and news events –Tugend shows how embracing mistakes can make us smarter, healthier and happier in every facet of our lives. She examines the tension between what we’re told from our earliest years — that we have to make mistakes in order to learn — and the reality: that we often get punished for making mistakes and therefore try to avoid them or cover them up by, for instance, inventing hikes on the Appalachian Trail when we’re down in Buenos Aires romancing our mistress.”
“Better By Mistake is a fascinating and well-researched read. But it isn’t bogged down with abstract concepts and jargon. Tugend presents the research in an engaging and easy-to-understand manner. She describes several studies in great detail, so readers get a good idea of how these experiments were conducted. She breaks up research-heavy sections with anecdotes and real-life analogies. ”
“I’ve learned so much from this book. It’s confirmed my own research about perfectionism, shame, and vulnerability, and it’s helped make new connections in my personal and work life.”
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