Fail Better: With Guests Joseph Herscher & Lauren Eskreis-Winkler

August 14, 2022
Does failure really improve our ability to learn?
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After you listen

In a busy world, the learning process can be difficult for most of us—especially when it comes to complex financial transactions.

In a busy world, the learning process can be difficult for most of us—especially when it comes to complex financial transactions.

You hear it a lot in contemporary education, the tech world, and the arts: that it's important to fail, to make mistakes so that you can learn from them and get better at whatever you do. But that generally accepted wisdom is incomplete.

In this episode of Choiceology with Katy Milkman, we look at how failure can cloud your ability to learn and to improve.

Joseph Herscher is creator of the wildly successful YouTube channel Joseph's Machines. He builds intricate and whimsical contraptions that perform simple tasks in overly complicated ways. You may know them as Rube Goldberg machines. Joseph's machines take months to build—and often dozens and dozens of takes to capture on video in a single shot. That's because there are so many points of failure, it's rare for these elaborate contraptions to work perfectly.

All that to say, Joseph Herscher is no stranger to failure. But his work illustrates a positive approach to a negative experience. Annoying as it can be, failure is a good way to gather useful information.

You'll hear the story of one machine that nearly didn't work at all, because of an uncooperative baby. But, in the end, Joseph's Cake Server was a huge success, garnering millions of views online.

Next, Katy speaks with Lauren Eskreis-Winkler about her research with Ayelet Fishbach on how we tend to ignore some or all of the information in failure, in part because failure is uncomfortable and ego-threatening.

You can read more in the paper "Not Learning From Failure—the Greatest Failure of All."

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler is an assistant professor of management and organization at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Finally, Katy gives you advice on how to better share critical feedback, and how to limit the ego-threatening aspects of failure by adopting a growth mindset.

Choiceology is an original podcast from Charles Schwab. For more on the series, visit

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Important Disclosures

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions.

The comments, views, and opinions expressed in the presentation are those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the views of Charles Schwab.

Examples provided are for illustrative purposes only and not intended to be reflective of results you can expect to achieve.

Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.

The book How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (CS&Co.). Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (CS&Co.) has not reviewed the book and makes no representations about its content.

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