Sir Isaac NewtonOnly last week I wrote about a brain study from Canada which showed we can achieve more success if we actually try to understand how other people failed. Now, another piece of research from the other side of the world confirms this as being a really good idea. Psychologists from Taiwan have just published the results of a fascinating study on how to improve interest and success in studying science. The research shows that when students were told about the struggles and hard work it took for the likes of Newton to succeed they actually became more interested in science generally. Not only that, but in the group of students who were taught about the difficulties Newton faced, their success in science tests were improved. Even students normally disinterested in science, who traditionally performed badly in science exams, became more interested and improved their test scores as a result.

Normally, students of science are taught about the successes of famous scientists – but rarely hear about their failures and their struggles to achieve. This study suggests that by focusing on the positive, students are less motivated and remember less about what they have studied, compared with when they focus on the negatives.

Online you can find countless examples of “how to achieve Internet success”, all of which tell us about the person who used to live in a trailer park but is now a multimillionaire running an empire from the private beach beside their island retreat. All positive stuff – but what they don’t tell you is the string of failed websites, the chaos that preceded the luxury and the struggle they had. This new research suggests that if we read about the struggles, difficulties and failures we would be more motivated to succeed ourselves.

So rather than seeking case histories of online success, what you should really be reading about are the failures, the problems and struggles. Don’t go reading books on how Facebook succeed, instead read books on why the likes of failed.

This is a theme I shall be picking up in my newsletter on Saturday – you can make sure you receive that using the box below, or by visiting my newsletter page.

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