The Rebounders

The Rebounders.

Success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time. When our mistakes stare us in the face, we often find it so upsetting that we miss out on the primary “benefit” of failing: the chance to get over our egos and come back with a stronger, smarter approach. Few of our own failures are fatal. This may be true, but we certainly don’t act like it.

Recognizing Failure

  • This is the hard part.
  • We’ve been trained that “persistence pays off,” so it feels wrong to cut our losses and label an idea a failure.
  • But if you’re truly self-aware and listening closely after a “release” of your idea, you can’t go wrong.
  • Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed.

Gather Feedback

  • Feedback is essential for determining which experiments have succeeded and which have failed.
  • Get advice, not just from one person, but from several.
  • Some professions have built-in feedback: reviews if you’re in the arts, sales and analytics if you release a web product, comments if you’re a blogger.
  • If the feedback is harsh, be objective, take the venom out and dig out the real advice.
  • Remove emotions from the equation.
  • It’s important to be dispassionate: forget whether you’re ahead or behind, and try to look at the likely costs and benefits of continuing from when you are.

Replan

  • There’s nothing wrong with a plan, but remember that no plan survives first contact with the enemy.
  • The danger is a plan that seduces us into thinking failure is impossible and adaptation is unnecessary – a kind of ‘Titanic’ plan, unsinkable, until it hits the iceberg.
  • Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed.

Safe Failure Ground

  • The best failures are the private ones you commit in the confines of your own room, with no strangers watching.
  • But many of us don’t have this luxury of time or freedom.
  • So how do we create this space?
  • Practice disciplined pluralism.
  • Markets work by this process, encouraging the exploration of many new ideas as well as the ruthless weeding out of the ones that fall short.
  • Pluralism works because life is not worth living without new experiences.
  • Try a lot of things, and commit only to what’s working.
  • Finding “a safe space to fail is a state of mind.”
  • Assuming that you don’t operate a nuclear power plant for a living, you can probably infuse a bit more freedom and flexibility into your workday.
  • Give yourself permission to test out a few off-the-wall ideas mixed in with the by-the-book ideas.

Watch your Reaction

  • It seems to be the hardest thing in the world to admit we’ve made a mistake and try to put it right.
  • It requires you to challenge a status quo of your own making.
  • Chasing your losses. We’re so anxious not to draw a line under a decision we regret, that we end up causing still more damage while trying to erase it.
  • For example, poker players who’ve just lost some money are primed to make riskier bets than they’d normally take, in a hasty attempt to win the lost money back and “erase” the mistake.

  • When it comes to failing, our egos are our own worst enemies.
  • As soon as things start going wrong, our defence mechanisms kick in, tempting us to do what we can to save face.
  • Yet, these very normal reactions — denial, chasing your losses, and hedonic editing — wreak havoc on our ability to adapt.

Imitate College Failures

  • College is an amazing safe space to fail.
  • We are experimenting with new friends, a new city, new hobbies and new ideas – and we’ll often mess up academically and socially as a result.
  • But we know that as long as we don’t screw up too dramatically, we’ll finish college, graduate, and move on – that mix of risk and safety is intoxicating.
  • Yet somehow as we grow older we lose it.

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