What is our recommendation for the one new year’s resolution that will help every single debater improve in 2014? It might surprise you.

 

Many of you are probably already setting goals for yourself for the new year. We have a suggestion for something to add to the list, and though it might seem counter-intuitive, you’ll be amazed by how powerful it is.

 

The advice: Stop fearing failure. Allow yourself to make mistakes.

 

This is the secret to creativity and accomplishment, according to wildly successful author Neil Gaiman. He writes:

 

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

 
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
 
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.  
 
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
 
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

 

 

Remember, debate isn’t just about finding evidence and regurgitating it. It’s about becoming a scholar: engaging existing knowledge in order to create new perspectives, new knowledge. If you have an idea you find compelling, pursue it! Every great “stand-by” argument had to originally be pioneered by someone else. That person was taking risks. You should, too.

 

What if you fail? So what.

 

struggle

It’s not just ok to struggle; it’s valuable.

 

The truth is, you will improve the most by learning from your mistakes. Challenging yourself forces you to adapt, to struggle, and to learn. Think of it like lifting weights: it is hard at first, but your body adapts quickly and you grow stronger. The same thing will happen to your “debate muscle!”

 

Every great debater on the planet will tell you that they got where they are by challenging themselves and struggling sometimes. No one wins every round. But every great debater will also tell you that the skills they developed by stumbling occasionally are much more memorable and important than the handful of losses they had to sustain to develop them.

 

So, in 2014, write that new case, read that book by the author you’re afraid you won’t understand, enter into that tournament full of teams with better records than yours. Take risks! Even if you fail, you will learn something. And before long, you’ll realize that you’ve gotten so much better than you were last year.

 

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