Recently I was getting interviewed on a podcast and the host asked me, “Do you think people don’t start something because of the fear of failure or because of the fear of success?” My answer was not what he was expecting.
I said, “I think people view too much of life as pass or fail. I prefer to view projects and ideas like an experiment.” When we view something new at our private practice, in relationships, or a project, the worst thing we can do is view it as “pass or fail.”
Let’s see why we think that way, why experimenting works with the brain, and how to apply it for a happier and more productive life.
Why We Think in “Pass/Fail” Terms
In school, we would write a paper until it was “polished.” We’d review draft after draft, then we would turn it in. In college there were tests, projects, and presentations. Life in that model is a win/lose or pass/fail situation. But that’s not how life actually works!
If you are dating and you have a bad date, you learn from it and go on another. If you’re a parent and you mess up a new parenting technique, you learn and adjust. Despite our earliest education, life is not win/lose.
In almost every life domain, it’s a process not an arrival point.
Experimenting and The Brain
Our brains love to try and predict what will happen. Thousands of years ago, those that could predict where a tiger spent their time were the ones that survived. All day, our brains predict whether a sidewalk with stay solid, whether a boat is safe, and whether the people we connect with will hurt us.
When we approach new things in life as if it were an experiment, it taps into how our brains work. For example, say you want to see if Google Ads work for getting new clients to your private practice. Your budget is $300.
Imagine you spend $300 and get no new clients.
- In a pass/fail world, that is a failure.
- But what data did we learn? Maybe that specific ads don’t connect, our images stink, or that our ideal client isn’t clicking on Google Ads.
- As an experiment, we get useful results no matter what.
Imagine you want to lose weight. Many people will sign up for the newest diet and then “fail” at it. Instead, maybe try a new diet every week for a month and determine which lifestyle you enjoy the most.
If you see it as an experiment, you’re not failing at a diet, you are learning that model was not for you.
Once you start viewing life and business decisions as an experiment, it relieves the pressure and allows you to try new things without the fear of failure, because there is no longer failure. With that said, the podcast host did like my answer.
Joe Sanok is the owner of Practice of the Practice, a consulting business that helps small businesses to get bigger. It’s located in Traverse City, MI. He does one-on-one private practice consulting and has a number of Mastermind Groups for people starting, growing, and scaling a private practice.