Mistakes are Necessary - [225 and Beyond #003]

Mistakes happen. There’s no getting around this. 

But it doesn’t have to be bad news. Mistakes have a silver lining that we can take advantage of: Every mistake is a learning opportunity that we can use to ensure we don’t make the same mistake twice. What’s more, without mistakes, it would be impossible to improve at anything.

Consider the aviation industry: Every single time an aeroplane crashes, an investigation is carried out to find out why it happened and make sure that changes are made within the industry to prevent the same mistake being repeated. The efforts have been remarkably successful, with the rate of deaths per million flyers decreasing from 133 between 1962 and 1972 to only two deaths per million flyers between 2002 and 2011.

This provides us with the perfect blueprint to follow. Every major drop, every untranslate, every panicky moment is an opportunity—but only if you find out why it happened and make the needed changes. And luckily, our mistakes aren’t quite as dangerous as any that might happen at 30,000 feet!

To benefit from your mistakes, you first have to be aware of them. No investigations are being held into the millions of hours of uneventful and crash-free flight time. Likewise, don’t spend time poring over what you did right. That’s already under control. You need to home in on your mistakes.

Scoping your own work, even if it’s not the whole file, is a good way to find your mistakes.

If you use a scopist, you can tell them that you will scope a certain portion of the transcript. Even better, you can get your scopist on board with this project of improving your writing (they’ll be eager to help you because their job will become easier!). Ask them to leave a hidden note for you wherever you made a mistake worth analysing, such as a word that you consistently misstroked or a major drop.

Once you start analysing a mistake, try to identify whether it was a one-off or part of a trend; for example, do you consistently drop the final -P when trying to stroke the final -N? 

If you start noticing such a trend, you can:

  1. fix the problem, by practising finger drills or

  2. work around the problem, by adding slop strokes to your dictionary. 

A slop stroke is an entry in your dictionary for a way that you might misstroke something. For instance, you could add POBD as a slop stroke for the word “pond” if you have the habit of dropping the final -P when going for the final -N. 

Having slop strokes defined will mean that even if you make a mistake, the word you were trying to write will still translate correctly. They make it possible for you to produce stellar realtime without being a perfect writer. Turning on Drag/Drop Analysis in CaseCATalyst can be very helpful for this sort of inaccuracy too.

Try to identify what made a mistake happen. If you dropped a significant portion, was it because you were too far behind the speaker? Then practise staying right on the speaker. Was it because a difficult word came up and you froze? Then practise to dictation with a lot of uncommon words to train yourself to react quickly by fingerspelling or writing words out phonetically.

Other ways of benefiting from your mistakes include adding to your personal dictionary entries for anything that comes up in a job that doesn’t translate perfectly, like a name, place, or company.

This process is what will allow you to actually grow from your mistakes. Too many people go through life terrified of making mistakes. But we’ve seen that you can use every mistake to your benefit by using it as a catalyst for growth. And this mindset isn’t just applicable to stenography; you can and should adopt this mindset in every aspect of life.

Elsewhere On The Web:

Messy Goals and Targets—Good read on why goals and targets can be a little deceptive and blinding at times. This is related to Goodhart's Law, which is definitely something people should be aware of.

Quote Of The Week:

“Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect.”—Raymond Joseph Teller

Personal Message:

Thanks for all your lovely messages about last week’s article. I’m really glad that you (or at least some of you) are enjoying what I’m writing about and that it’s motivating you to grow.

In other news, I’m offering group classes over Zoom about how to use accelerwriters on CaseCAT. If you have no idea what accelerwriters are, you probably should email me to sign up 😉