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Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

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.

Via Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation:

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.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

So why don’t we all just go make more mistakes? Oh yeah…


Fear of failure is one of the most powerful feelings.

Via Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy:

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.”

Via Maximum Brainpower: Challenging the Brain for Health and Wisdom:


The shift to focusing on negative feedback — failure — is one of the marks of an expert mindset.

Via The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How:

How about creative geniuses? They regard failure as a learning experience and grow from it.

Via Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Ghandi:

Neuroscience research has shown that when we learn from our failures we don’t feel as bad about them.

Via The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success:

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


Make “little bets.” What’s a little bet?

Via Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries:

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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