In Eric Ries’ acclaimed bestseller The Lean Startup he makes it clear that little bets, or “experiments”, are critical to moving a business forward in a safe fashion:
This isn’t just true for companies — it’s true for you. Getting it wrong helps you get it right. Making mistakes is vital to improvement.
Taking tests increases performance — even when you fail the tests. Deliberately making mistakes during training led to better learning than being taught to prevent errors.
So why don’t we all just go make more mistakes? Oh yeah…
Fear of failure is one of the most powerful feelings.
You know what the funny thing is? It’s never as bad as you think. Really.
Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness has studied how long people feel lousy after bad things happen. The answer? Not nearly as long as they guess. You anticipate regret will be much more painful than it actually is. Studies show we all consistently overestimate how regret affects us.
Why is this? You don’t take into consideration your amazing ability to rationalize bad events and absolve yourself of responsibility. Regret hurts, but due to rationalizing it is not nearly as bad as we anticipate.
When we fear failure we limit our ability to succeed. “Both hope and despair are self-fulfilling prophecies.”
WHAT DO EXPERTS AND GENIUSES DO?
The shift to focusing on negative feedback — failure — is one of the marks of an expert mindset.
How about creative geniuses? They regard failure as a learning experience and grow from it.
Neuroscience research has shown that when we learn from our failures we don’t feel as bad about them.
But this advice isn’t just for experts and geniuses. Daniel Pink’s The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need conveys a number of principles about the world of work that everyone should take note of. Not the least of which is:
Make excellent mistakes
SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Make “little bets.” What’s a little bet?
A little bet allows you to break out of your comfort zone and try something new knowing that if it doesn’t work out you can quickly recover and try something else.
In Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You he recommends little bets for someone trying to develop their skills and create a career:
If you want to test a theory or master a subject you need solid feedback and you need it fast. Failure is the clearest feedback and little bets are the safest way to fail.
Get out there and fail… so you can succeed.
This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.
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