The Professional Mistake Maker

Today I returned graded work for the first time to my new ninth grade English class.  I always find this moment — a reminder of the somewhat (disappointingly) transactional nature of school — a little rough.

Before distributing the work, I decided to share a few minutes (roughly 8:29 – 13:00) of a podcast that Tim Ferriss recently recorded with hedge fund mastermind Ray Dalio.  I asked students to listen to the segment and to try to figure out how it was related to the feedback process at school.  My question: What does Ray Dalio, hedge fund billionaire, have to do with the feedback I have just put on your papers?

The podcast felt like a risk.  I wasn’t sure how my students would respond to two men talking about investing*.  But as soon as I heard Dalio’s Long Island accent and watched the students lean toward the computer speaker, I knew I had made a good choice.  After I stopped the recording, the students instantly started talking about the importance of humility (which Dalio mentions) in improvement, how we should strive to convert mistakes into wisdom, and the fact that Dalio’s formula (pain + reflection = progress) seems valuable for the endeavor of being a student, both in school and out.

When one student looked up Dalio’s astronomical net worth and mentioned it to the class, another student said, “and he says he got there because he’s a professional mistake maker.”  I think there’s a good lesson in there somewhere.

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