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  • Translator: Jeesun Youn Reviewer: Lisa Thompson

  • About a year ago, I asked my YouTube followers to play

  • a simple computer programming puzzle that I made with a buddy.

  • The object of the puzzle was to get your car across the maze

  • by arranging these code blocks

  • that represent typical computer programming operations,

  • such as if-else statements and while loops.

  • Once you thought you had a good code, you would hit Run,

  • and your car would move based on the commands you had in the program.

  • I asked my YouTube followers to play it because I said I wanted to prove

  • that anyone from any background could learn to code.

  • Fifty thousand of them took the challenge and attempted the puzzle.

  • But the truth was

  • that I didn't actually care about proving that anyone could learn to code.

  • What they didn't know is that we actually randomly served up

  • two slightly different versions of the puzzle.

  • In one version, if you hit Run and you weren't successful,

  • you didn't lose any of your starting 200 points.

  • We showed you this message.

  • [Please try again.]

  • However, in the other version,

  • if you hit Run and again you weren't successful,

  • we showed this slightly different message,

  • stating that you lost five points from your starting 200 points.

  • That was the only difference.

  • In one version, if you failed,

  • we simply took away five no-value-in-the-real-world,

  • no-one-will-ever-see-these,

  • completely meaningless, fake internet points.

  • (Laughter)

  • That minor difference is crucial to keep in mind

  • for the results I'm about to show you from the 50,000 data points we collected.

  • For those who were penalized for failed attempts,

  • their success rate was around 52%.

  • For those who were not penalized, their success rate was 68%.

  • That statistically significant delta of 16% was really surprising

  • and almost seemed too hard to believe

  • until we looked at another piece of data that we collected,

  • which was attempts to solve before finding success.

  • It's shown in orange right here.

  • So, those who didn't see failing in a negative light

  • nearly had two and a half times more attempts to solve the puzzle.

  • As a result, naturally, they saw more success and therefore learned more.

  • So if you think about that and sort of unpack these results,

  • the trick to learning more and having more success

  • is finding the right way to frame the learning process.

  • And this observation seemed really profound to me.

  • It made me wonder, What if you just frame the learning process in such a way

  • that you did not concern yourself with failure,

  • how much more successful could you be, how much more could you learn?

  • The next thought was that if this is a real effect,

  • clearly there must be some evidence for this in real life.

  • It made me think of toddlers.

  • That's my boy; I helped make that.

  • (Laughter)

  • They are constantly trying new things,

  • and they certainly aren't concerned with failure.

  • When my son learned to walk,

  • he didn't think about how dumb he might look if he fell down,

  • and as his parents, we didn't punish him if he wasn't successful either.

  • The focus was always on the end goal, and we celebrated the successes with him.

  • As a result of constantly failing and trying

  • and discovering new things during that phase of our life,

  • we discover so many more new capabilities within ourselves,

  • and it's not even close to any other time in our life.

  • But maybe using a toddler is sort of cheating

  • because their brains are different than ours.

  • To make the case that perhaps they aren't that different than us,

  • I'd like to tell you about a plumber I first met when I was eight years old.

  • He was Italian.

  • (Power up sound effect)

  • (Laughter)

  • When Super Mario Bros. came out, my friends and I became obsessed -

  • like, we wanted to get to the castle and rescue the beautiful Princess Peach

  • from the evil Bowser.

  • We'd get to school and ask each other,

  • "Dude, what level did you make it to? Did you pass the game?"

  • We never asked each other about details on all the different ways we might have died.

  • When it comes to games like this,

  • no one ever picks up the controller for the first time

  • and then after jumping into a pit thinks,

  • "I am so ashamed; that was such a failure,"

  • and they never want to try again, right?

  • What really happens is they think, "I've got to remember there's a pit there;

  • next time, I'm going to come out with a little more speed

  • and jump a bit later."

  • The focus and the obsession is about beating the game,

  • not how dumb you might look if you get hit by a sliding green shell.

  • And as a direct result of that attitude

  • of learning from but not being focused on the failures,

  • we got really good, and we learned a ton in a very short amount of time.

  • We were the right side of this graph.

  • This is what I call the Super Mario Effect:

  • focusing on the princess and not the pits to stick with a task and to learn more.

  • This caused me to reflect and realize that there were lots of other examples

  • from my own personal experience where this attitude of life gamification,

  • this Super Mario Effect led to more success and therefore more learning.

  • I have a science YouTube channel

  • where I will sometimes use my engineering skills

  • to build things such as the world's largest Super Soaker

  • or the Guinness World Record world's largest Nerf gun.

  • (Video) (Screaming)

  • (Audience) (Laughter)

  • (On stage) Mark Rober: Or maybe this snowball machine gun.

  • (Video) MR: Ha, ha, ha. Yes!

  • (On stage) MR: Fashioned from a leaf blower.

  • (Audience) (Laughter)

  • That's my niece.

  • Those are my nephews.

  • (Laughter)

  • I haven't quite figured it out,

  • but when it comes to me, their uncle, they seem to have some trust issues.

  • (Laughter)

  • So, these builds usually take me about two to three months,

  • but there was one that took me three years.

  • Basically, I wanted to make a dartboard where you could get a bullseye every time.

  • The idea was that if you throw a dart, we could track it through the air,

  • and then we'd move the board to sort of catch a bullseye.

  • (Laughter)

  • And so, once we did the math, we realized that if we wanted to track the dart

  • for a typical, like, game of darts, typical velocity,

  • we would basically have to both track the dart and move the board

  • in the same amount of time it takes for a human to blink once.

  • No big deal, right?

  • I'm not going to bore you with all the details

  • and the failures and the setbacks

  • from a lot of metaphorical sliding green shells

  • and those pesky Hammerhead Bros,

  • but eventually we figured out

  • it would take something that looks like this,

  • which is six stepper motors and motion controllers,

  • a Vicon motion capture system with six cameras,

  • and just a ton of tweaking and rewriting the code.

  • But finally, eventually, we arrived here.

  • (Applause)

  • What's interesting is when I look back on that process,

  • like, I can honestly say my attitude towards that

  • was the same attitude I had toward, like, rescuing the princess from Bowser.

  • Like, of course, each failure and setback sucked; it stung.

  • But it was no different than falling in that pit on Level 8-1,

  • and you're like, "Argh," and you got to go back and try again.

  • It was always like, "OK, that sucked, but what did we learn from that?

  • What can we do next for it? Let's hit it again."

  • And this concept of life gamification

  • is more than just, like, "Have a positive attitude"

  • or "Never give up"

  • because those sort of imply

  • you're having to endure against your true desire to quit.

  • I feel like when you frame a challenge or a learning process

  • in the way I'm describing,

  • you actually want to do it.

  • It feels natural to ignore the failures and try again,

  • in the same way a toddler will want to get up and try and walk again

  • or in the same way you want to keep playing Super Mario Bros.

  • or in the same way the group on the right had a desire to stick with that puzzle

  • two and a half times longer.

  • They weren't getting paid to do that.

  • Nobody was forcing them or watching them.

  • It was just them on their computer, alone in their house.

  • Their outlook made it so they wanted to keep trying and learning.

  • The icing on the cake for the dartboard

  • was I took it on Jimmy Kimmel and challenged him to a game of darts.

  • I'll just set this clip up by saying two things.

  • The first is we also had a mode on the board

  • where if your buddy had it and threw a dart,

  • the board would move the other way.

  • (Laughter)

  • And the second is that we couldn't get this thing working during rehearsal,

  • and it was just barely kind of creeping along.

  • I get up to stand in the elevator,

  • which is the door that moves up before you go down out on stage.

  • I look