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Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong
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Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  214 ratings  ·  41 reviews
A New York Times columnist delivers an eye-opening big idea: Embracing mistakes can make us smarter, healthier, and happier in every facet of our lives.

In this persuasive book, journalist Alina Tugend examines the delicate tension between what we're told-we must make mistakes in order to learn-and the reality-we often get punished for making mistakes, and therefore try
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 17th 2011 by Riverhead Books (first published March 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.39  · 
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Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
**Skipping this book would be a mistake!**

If to err is human, then why do we have such difficulties in accepting our own—and others’—mistakes?

That’s exactly the question that journalist Alina Tugend tackles in this unmistakingly (Ha! Spellcheck thinks that word is a mistake!) worthwhile book. She seeks to:
“explore the tension between the fact we’re taught when young that we learn from mistakes, but the reality is that most of us hate and dread them…to find out what creates that tension, and how
Connie  Kuntz
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History Buffs
This is definitely a thinking person's book. In spite of the fact that it was difficult to read page after page after page about mistakes, I still loved it and highly recommend it.

You see, I am a person who makes many mistakes. Many. I don't tell lies and I don't play mind games, but I do screw up quite a bit. Turns out, I'm not alone. Also turns out there are better ways of coping with chronic mistake making. That is why I recommend this book.

The author writes in a style that reminds me of Mal
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
After enjoying the 2010 book "Being Wrong" by Kathryn Schulz this spring, I have subsequently read two other books on mistakes and error, "Why We Make Mistakes" (2009) by Joseph T. Hallinan and Alina Tugend's "Better By Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong," published in 2011.
Schulz's book I think is the best, in that it is wider ranging, more philosophical, and focuses on beliefs, the genesis of our mistakes. However, Hallinan's and Tugend's books are worthwhile even if they overla
Kater Cheek
Sep 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Is it a good sign or a bad sign when the author references mostly books that I've already read? On one hand, it's bad because it indicates that maybe this sub-genre (popular science) is panned out for me. On the other hand, the fact that it still managed to get me to read to the end is a testament to Turgend's writing abilities.

Better by Mistake is about exactly what you think it's about. It's about how people make mistakes (the factors that lead up to them) and how both external and internal fa
John Nelson
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone above age 15
So glad I found this book, as much of it addresses why we'd rather appear as though we make no mistakes, than as someone who learns from them.

Aggregate research journalist, Alina Tugend's laid back, conversational approach to explaining studies, experiments, and academia, is friendly. Frankly, referencing episodes of The Simpsons in explaining studies conducted by those in the psychiatric field, make it easier for me understand and learn.

And I'm finding plenty of enlightening and easily digest
Amy Hardison
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book looked intriguing. I even sampled the first chapter on my kindle and was still interested. However, as the book progressed, it became pretty ho-hum. I had hoped for more.
Mohamed El-Zeadani
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mistakes, and who doesn’t make them. A sound topic for a book, and Alina Tugend does well to address it. Abundant with self-reflection and examples of famous technical mistakes in various professions, the author does well to help the reader deal with mistakes better and utilize them for future success. Or rather, the author goes to great length to illustrate how one ought to view mistakes in the right framework and use them to bounce back stronger. Some parts of the book were more interesting th ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sociology-psych
I don't know if it was the book itself or if I was just less interested in this topic than I thought I was or if I'd read too much already to really find a lot of the material novel, but I had trouble finishing this. It just seemed to go on and on, with nothing to break it up but the chapter breaks (some headings probably would have helped). The writing didn't really grab me. A solid "meh".
May 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Great title. Important concept. Okay book. Reads like an article a journalist spun out into a book--because that's what it is. Surveys many interesting ideas. Does not achieve Gladwellian status. Definitely worthwhile for us all to think about how we handle mistakes.
Allison Norman
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars if I’m being honest. Some very good nuggets in here and generally agree with the authors philosophy, but was too detailed for me (esp since I had already read The checklist manifesto- I would recommend this book over TCM)
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, meridian
We've all heard the advice to learn from our mistakes and we've probably all paid lip service to the idea that mistakes are “learning experiences” rather than “failures”, but do we really believe it? In the beginning of Better By Mistake, Ms. Tugend explains that “In writing this book, I often emphasize the 'good' part of mistakes. That doesn't necessarily mean that the mistakes themselves are good, but their aftermath—tracing back why we made them and what we learned from them—can be very helpf ...more
Zohar -
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
“Bet­ter by Mis­take: The Unex­pected Ben­e­fits of Being Wrong” by Alina Tugend is a non-fiction book which tries to explain how deal­ing with mis­takes can ben­e­fit you and your work. While this book might be cat­e­go­rized as self-help, I found it to be more than that and thought pro­vok­ing as well.

Jour­nal­ist Alina Tugend exam­ines what it means to make mis­takes, how we pay for it and the hyp­o­crit­i­cal nature of our soci­ety when it comes to learn­ing from them.

While “Bet­ter by Mis­t
Gwendoline Van
Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Better By Mistake provides an interesting glimpse into the art of the mistake from a cultural, sociological, and gender perspective. She speaks about how devastating and self-sabotaging it is for cultures--company or national--who see mistakes as character weaknesses instead of opportunities for growth.

Interestingly, she showcases how the more female-dominant way of taking on mistakes so personally and promoting peace and learning via collaboration is really a reflection of the language of subj
The premise is that we are told as children that we grow through mistakes, but overtime become convinced that mistakes are terrible, crushing events. Focuses mostly on medicine, business and--strangely traditional for pop psychology--aviation.
"Mistakes aren't to be discourages. On the contrary, they should be cultivated and carefully investigated" (qt Lehrer 25).
With technology "what once would have been a blooper that lived for a few days and died can no resonate far beyond its natural l
Oct 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really, really insightful and informative. However, it got a little repetitive. I skimmed a couple chapters in the middle (the medical and aviation chapters). I do agree with everything she brings forward. We need to re-evaluate how we react to mistakes- our own and others- in order to improve our relationships, abilities, resilience, etc. There is a lot more to this book than that :) so I'd say definitely pick it up.

note: It's not a quick read. I'm not sure I ever read more than a chapter at a
Lenny Husen
Nov 02, 2011 rated it liked it
There were some excellent chapters and this is a good effort on this subject. Would recommend it to anyone who is a perfectionist. Some chapters were quite dull, or covered better in other books (such as the chapter on medical errors and errors in aviation). My main criticism is that the book lacked humor and it was a bit dull for that reason. The subject is a good one and would be improved by funny examples.
But overall fine and would advise reading a chapter here and there and not trying to re
Mike Klein
Jul 18, 2012 rated it liked it
A well written book that suffers from the relatively common "too many chapters" syndrome. Her point is valid and important, mistakes are valuable potential learning experiences, and if we get into mistake denial mode we have lost that potential experience.

The author writes a great narrative that sometimes feels more like an autobiography than a study of mistakes. While it is valuable to know that someone profited from her research, it felt like it weakened the narrative overall.

Recommended but t
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Well written and expertly researched. Better by Mistake gives a great perspective on how we view mistakes in society and what we can do to practice what we preach. Anyone will tell you that we should learn from our mistakes but there are very few placed where we are encouraged to make them.

The author explores mistakes and their consequences in numerous areas from elementary math class to commercial airline pilots.

It gave me a whole new perspective on the addage I've been hearing all my life.
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book, and was generally disappointed, The message is great and I agree with it--we need to admit and learn from our mistakes rather than hide them. Sadly we live in a society where you are chastised, humiliated, etc., for mistakes rather than looking at the root cause of the mistake and learning from that. There was a great deal of research that was pulled into the book, but it was done in a cumbersome way that, at least for me, detracted from the book rather than addin ...more
Aug 07, 2013 rated it liked it
I read this book in an effort to glean some insights into how to make mistakes more comfortable for my daughter so I skipped a few chapters and breezed through some of the rest. There were many interesting anecdotes and studies but I came away with less than I had hoped for my personal situation. The best info came from the sections on Carol Dweck and mindset which I was a bit familiar with. My only wish is that the chapter titles were better descriptors and there were more internal chapter brea ...more
Leanna Aker
Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book had many interesting anecdotes from medicine, aviation, gender issues, etc. about mistakes.... how and why they're made, how we learn from them, and how we give conflicting messages in society about how great it is to learn from mistakes, yet punish them severely. I won't say that the book made me any more profoundly aware of how to learn from mistakes, but I found the stories interesting. I learned a great deal and developed some empathy for professions in which mistakes can have seve ...more
Jul 04, 2015 rated it liked it
New York Times columnist Alina Tugend weaves together lessons learned through research on mistakes. The most fascinating parts to me were not those that had to do with work, but rather, with parenting. In particular, praising trying hard results in kids showing more willingness to take risks, try difficult things and learn from getting things wrong. Whereas, kids who are told they are smart want to continue to be seen as smart, so they take fewer risks and are more likely to cover up their mista ...more
Mar 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a reported book vs. a narrative treatment by an expert intimately involved in the field. Well-researched, but not compelling, with a somewhat scattered hodgepodge of anecdotes that only loosely tie into what seems to be a theme that it's good to learn from our mistakes and not judge ourselves -- or others -- too harshly. Maybe a point in need of reinforcing, but it was a tedious journey to get there.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
I am in the midst of a study of creativity for my new job, and I have just come of doing a bunch of reading on the problem with rewards and grades and such. So, this book fit into that matrix pretty well. Tugend isn't as deft a writer as Malcolm Gladwell, but she is competent. She presents interesting studies that will change what I do in the classroom pretty significantly. That said, I probably wouldn't have read this book if it wasn't part of this jag I'm currently on.
Margaret Sankey
Oct 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Popularization of scientific research into the way in which people learn and change from mistakes, from studies of raising resilient children by praising effort and not intrinsic intelligence, EEG scans of people in the process of making incorrect decisions, the checklist system and reductions in surgical mistakes, training air crews to be less deferential and willing to point out error and the all-important convincing political apology.
Dave Burns
Nov 06, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: library
Some people think performance is determined by innate ability, others by effort. High performers tend to work hard, and manage to make it look easy by not revealing all the practice that went into creating the ultimate effortless execution.
Some people pay attention to mistakes as signals of opportunities for improvement, others are just embarrassed. Ironically, embracing, analyzing and understanding mistakes makes them less likely to recur.
Barbara Lovejoy
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't really focusing on a TV program when this author was being interviewed but the topic intrigued me. Because I wasn't totally focused I couldn't remember the title or the author so had to do some serious searching and finally found it. Am sooooo glad! The author often refers to the work of Dr. Carol Dweck about "mind-set." I highly recommend this book, especially for those who want to work at our charter school, Esperanza.
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book explores the tension between needing to make mistakes to move forward in life and the shame of making them. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on cultural differences with specific examples from Japanese classrooms. She quotes many other sources and I enjoyed Daniel Pink's idea that we are teaching our kids cognitive skills but not "noncognitive skills" like sticking to tasks. This book was thought provoking and worth the effort to plow through the drier sections.
Kathleen Rainwater
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
What if we celebrated our mistakes and reviewed them carefully to see what we learned from them – on an everyday basis? The author shows that mistakes are everywhere, and suggests that when we acknowledge and identify them correctly, we can improve not only ourselves, but our families, our work, and the world around us.
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Good insight into mistakes/errors and the multiple perspectives people view it. If only more people would understand that mistakes and failures are a way for us to learn. People especially in the higher ranks of institutions or organizations should have a look at this book. Perhaps it may add some perspectives and change the environment to a better one, be it the organization, workplace or home.
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I went to college at U.C. Berkeley and after graduation moved to the East Coast to pursue journalism. I was a reporter on various newspapers (taking a year out to do a Fellowship in Law for Journalists at Yale University), primarily covering educational and environmental issues.

Then my husband and I moved to London. I continued freelancing and working for a non-profit while having two sons. We mov

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