Ella’s school assignment was to make a bridge out of two items we had at home. The bridge needed to stretch across a two-foot gap between two chairs and hold at least 10 pounds.
Ella started by moving two chairs to face one another. She then used a measuring tape to space the chairs exactly two feet apart. She began to build her bridge out of thick masking tape and wooden skewers, arranged in two neat rows. Finally, she placed the bridge on the chairs. Without any added weight, the bridge dipped down, sagging deeply in the space between the chairs.
Ella furrowed her brow and put her hands on her hips. “Now I have to start all over!” she grumbled.
So often we think of our efforts in black and white – either success or failure. With a failed outcome, we imagine ourselves glumly retreating back to square one. Yet the truth is that in most things we aren’t really starting at the beginning – we are starting from our last experience. We begin again, starting in a better place, with helpful insights gained from our last try.
Ella rolled out more tape. This time, she staggered the skewers on the long pieces of tape, applying what she had learned and making changes to correct what hadn’t worked before.
Her success was built on applying what she had learned. And this particular success – a sturdy bridge built only of tape and wooden skewers – held a whole 42 pounds.