The Hot Iron Effect: How to Learn From Negative Experience
Melted synthetics cling to the bottom of some hotel irons. When the iron gets hot, the residue stains your clothes. I learned this the hard way.
My experience with irons also taught me to hold my hand close to see if the iron is hot. Don’t touch it!
The most painful and embarrassing defeat is self-inflicted.
Limitations of experience:
Experience warns and confirms.
Mark Twain said, “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it and stop there lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid.
She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again and that is well but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.”
Experience teaches two things.
- That’s good. Do that again.
- That’s not good. Don’t do that again.
Over-reacting to being burned:
After my first stained shirt, I might have over-reacted, “I’ll NEVER use a hotel iron again.”
People who’ve been burned over-react. “I’ll never trust anyone again,” for example.
#1. Treating the present like it’s the past is over-reacting.
It’s disheartening to work for a manager who coddles the memory of past disappointments and failures. Everything is reaction.
Nursing past defeat prevents you from fully engaging in the present and makes you fearful of the future.
#2. Taking offense quickly and easily is over-reacting.
A thin-skinned manager judges the present through the lens of past disappointment.
The courage to lead requires openness to disappointment.
#3. Over-caution is over-reacting.
You over-react to getting burned when preventing is your mission in life.
People thrive when you trust them. Constant check-ins and reports foster distrust. Covey explains that distrust slows organizational life. (Speed of Trust)
Transform painful experiences to growth-points, not roadblocks.
What prevents us from learning from negative experiences?
How might we gain the most from negative experiences?
Ideas as Art (HBR)
The Fly on the Wall Effect: Understanding How we Learn from Bad Experiences (Huff Post)
Hot Stove Effect (Jerker Denrell)
Dan, those situations / events that remind us of the feelings from the our Hurt Boxes — I just want to get on my bicycle and ride until it does not hurt anymore. That has not worked yet,
Thank you for reminding us that influencing people, systems, and shooting scared cows is the larger story. I also believe we need to spend more time doing autopsies on events that were good – I appreciate you
Thanks Scott. Your comment is a reminder that painful situations are important. In general, I wonder if leaning in is better than leaning away.
Autopsies make me think of a learning approach instead of a blaming approach.
What prevents us from learning? Denial and ONLY thinking positive.
How do we gain? Ask “What did I contribute to this (bad experience)?”
I concur: the most painful and humiliating experiences are self-inflicted. We don’t learn anything good by blaming others by denying or evading our pain and humiliation … the pain and humiliation is a sure indication that it is self-inflicted … we need to be aware of that fact so that we can be aware of how it came to be.
And be vigilant whenever we are getting close to the iron again, this is no time to be multi-tasking.
Thanks Rurbane. The practice of honest self-reflect seems essential. Turn toward, not away.
As you suggest, take responsibility.
Hi all, Seems when something non-critical goes wrong, it’s so much better to wryly chuckle ‘let’s not try it THAT way again!’ than to make a lot of noise including “accountable!! ” “abundance of caution!” “so that it! never! happens! again!”. Having an accountability party seems responsible, but when like situation comes again, you’ll hear the brains snapping shut with anxiety and employees will be reliving how much it stinks to be blamed or self-blamed, and definitely not joyfully marshaling past experience and creativity to navigate better. That cat lid metaphor is a strong one. Stay well, all
Ahhh… good humor. Thanks Cate. It would help lots of us to lighten up a bit. 🙂
This has been difficult for me. As I am generally my own worst critic, I can take one piece of negative feedback and use that to amplify my own thoughts. I have learned over the years to accept feedback as a gift and difficult mistakes as lessons learned. I visualize them in a box that I’m holding and treasure. That helps keep it all in perspective.
Thanks Christi. A loud inner critic seems to make negative experiences worse. It usually doesn’t serve us well to amplify the bad. The use of a box is a tool a coaching client of mine uses. You must have an organized mind. cheers
“Nursing past defeat prevents you from fully engaging in the present and makes you fearful of the future.” Dan, your point is noteworthy. I knew an associate who related every new/current bad experience—even if someone else’s fault—to the past. Sometimes we do need to lighten up (thanks, Cate!) and perhaps see a bit of levity in our mistakes and failures. Years ago, one of favorite bosses would help us review what we learned from a bad experience, then clap his hands, do a little dance and announce, “Who’s gonna know the freakin’ difference in twenty years?”
LOL… thanks Carole. Love the clap and dance approach to mistakes and failures. 🙂