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Each week on Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, explore different aspects of human behavior and the brain.

Why Failure Can Make You a More Successful Person

Failure is a word that carries a lot of baggage, arousing emotional responses that we’d usually rather avoid. 

What about success? Why does the thought of success conjure images and feelings of comfort and satisfaction. This week, "Two Guys on Your Head" examine how the heights of success and the "training wheels" of failure impact our everyday lives.

We’re wired with a dopamine reward system that releases positive or negative chemical affect in our brains depending upon the success or failure of our efforts.  Success feels good, while failure feels bad.  So we tend to seek success and avoid failure. It’s simple.  

But, how can you determine how much exertion to expend toward reaching a particular goal if you’ve never failed at something?  You might just run yourself into the ground trying to avoid failure, but it's better to let failure experiences happen and serve to help you gauge your efforts. 

Failure is a learning mechanism, like training wheels on a bicycle.  Our little mistakes serve to build up a framework of experience that allows us to more proficiently navigate our lives.

The fear of failure is a very challenging obstacle to overcome.  To some, fear of failure can be immobilizing.  When we legislate ourselves rigidly against the negative feelings aroused by the experience of a mistake, we are short-changing ourselves. Failure-driven learning mechanisms are not being utilized because our society reinforces a desire to avoid mistakes.

This episode of Two Guys on Your Head originally aired in August 2014.

Rebecca McInroy is an award-winning show creator, host, and executive producer for KUT, KUTX, and KUT.ORG.
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