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Friday, January 28, 2011

How to learn from failure

January 2011 is almost history. Last year around this time I was quite excited about M208 and MT365. Not knowing that MT365 would end in failure and that ( the tutor of ) M208 had some horror in stock for me that made me almost end my Open University studies. Failure. There is no way to undo or repair failure. It has been said that one 'learns from failure'. Failure is something different than losing a game. If you lose a game you are simply beaten by a stronger opponent. When you fail you were beaten by yourself. Is failure then a sign of a weak character? Could be, but not necessarily so. It could simply be a matter of not having the right self-management and planning tools. Focus, dedication, ambition are cool words to say. "I am dedicated" to finish my mathematics study. But what do these words mean in your day-to-day life? How can you implement 'dedication'? How can you maintain 'focus'? - Last year I sort of drifted away from my goals set early in the year to the point in August where I basically had it with mathematics at the Open University. Such a thing does not happen overnight.

Implement statistics by monitoring your results. Can you see in an instant what you have learned this month? The previous month? How many hours have you studied. You know what statistic is best for you.
Periodically ( weekly, even better daily ) chart your statistics. Do you see trends? If so take corrective actions. With the purpose to stay focused and keep the results coming.
In future posts.

Almost forgot why I started this post. Self-study is much, much harder than doing a programmed course. This year I hope to study "Analytic Number Theory" by Apostol. Of the 14 chapters I have done the first chapter. The odd thing is that chapter 1 covers about the same as 8 modules ( the entire course ) of number theory in M381. The book is hard and dense. It covers two modules from the Master program as well. Completion of this self-study project is how I measure my study performance in 2011, not my grades on M381 or M373.


  1. Nilo your capacity for reflection is amazing. Given the difficulties you had with the courses and tutor a Grade 2 pass in M208 is a real achievement. I do sometimes wonder with all this chasing after distinctions etc that some people might be losing the point of what it's all for. Stick clearly to your ambitions and you will reach the sky.

    Best wishes Chris

  2. Thanks for the compliment, Chris. I really hope we can meet this year when I come to Edinburgh for a Number Theory tutorial. ( I'll do at least one, maybe two tutorials. )


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