Why trying again is cheaper than giving up
I thought to myself while gaming the other day, ‘It’s so easy to start again after I fail in this game. All it takes is a couple clicks of a button and I’m back to where I left off.’
The question, ‘what’s the real cost of failure?’ sprung into my mind. When I thought about it more, I realised that failing in most things—let alone gaming—comes at such a low cost that it makes giving up quite unnecessary. For meaningful goals, it’s cheaper to fail constantly and keep going until we succeed than to give up completely. Giving up is actually quite expensive.
It reminded me of a tweet I saw several weeks ago. A fascinating (maybe unsurprising) thing about kids and video games is it helps build an exceptional resilience to giving up. Why? Because the cost of failure is so low while the cost of giving up is so high. You lost a game? Oh well, start again. But if you quit the game, ‘Great, now I’m bored.’
Because it’s so easy to try again, it allows them to desensitise to worry and the fear of failure casually. And this translates itself to everyday life because our goals naturally support this tenet. It’s better to fail and try again than to give up and start from the beginning.
Think about a goal you have, then ask yourself, ‘how much does it cost me to try again? What happens if I give up?’ Or, for instance, let’s say you’re trying to get fit. You’re at the gym and having an awful day. You can’t lift what you wanted, you’re flat out of energy, and you were in a bad mood beforehand anyway. It may not have worked out today, but how easy is it to try again tomorrow? It’s almost effortless. But what happens if you give up trying to get fit? You stop looking after yourself; you might gain weight, your body stiffens up, you might be unhappy with yourself, or you might try again, months later, only to fall into the same trap.
Truly, the cost of failure is low in today’s world. It’s easier to fall and bounce back than you think.
With what you’re striving for (a raise, finding love, learning a skill, starting a business, getting fitter, etc.), let yourself try a hundred times before you consider giving up; only then will you know whether it’s worth it. In your biggest endeavours, you will fail many times. That’s not what matters. Getting back up, having fun and pressing the ‘load last checkpoint’ is what counts.
What’s on My Mind
A tweet from Ava:
“The best gauge of intimacy is the first people you want to tell good news and bad news; the times when I realised “oh I’m not actually close with x” were all when something happened and I didn’t tell them because it was embarrassing, or because weren’t talking at the moment, or because I thought they’d be upset. Intimacy is being able to tell someone (almost) everything.”
I showed the tweet to my girlfriend, and she happily agreed; when something good or bad usually happens, she usually calls me 0.50481 seconds after it happens—and vice-versa. It’s eye-opening to know who you turn to when you want to talk about something.
What I Learned This Week
Integrating New Ideas
Reading has two stages: consuming and integrating.
People focus on consuming since it’s easy to measure; that’s why there are so many articles about speed reading and websites that summarise books for you.
However, we surely should focus more on integration, which is the act of taking what you’ve read and putting them into a coherent whole. “You can read a hundred books and learn nothing from them if you never take the time to work out, in your own head, the way the things you have read fit together.”
You have to put ideas into your own words and explain them to others. That’s why writing is so powerful. Because as philosopher Giambattista Vico puts it: “We only know what we make”.
What’s the Rush?
Something is fascinating about how slow snails move. What may seem like a weakness doesn’t seem to have exploited their survival; they are one of the earliest known types of animal in the world, with fossils dating back to the late Cambrian period — nearly 500 million years ago!
We could learn a little from them about slowness, to live more intentionally, to stop rushing our decisions and to be more deliberate when navigating the world.
Slowing down helps you make better decisions, produce a consistent effort over time that is more sustainable, connect deeper with people, have more meaningful experiences while taking care of your well being.
Go slower to go further.
Choosing the Right Problem to Work On
We could always do with courage to help us tackle the right problems. And even if we fail by the whole, we may have tackled smaller problems along the way. Here’s what computer scientist Leonard Adleman said about having intellectual courage:
“I believe that by working on extremely hard problems, by being courageous, you may succeed. But even if you fail, you fail gloriously. And you will have learned immense amounts, you will have extended the envelope of what you can do. As a byproduct of failing on a great problem, I have always found that I could solve some lesser but still interesting problems—which then fill your vitae”.
“Lowering your heart rate and improving your physical health tenfold can be done using simple and subtle tweaks as well as making tremendous changes to your lifestyle. If you want to make big differences to your daily (and long-term) wellbeing, start with your heart.”
→ Five Subtle Ways to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate and Increase Your Lifespan
“Learning about self-mastery has paid off more times over than anything (and I mean anything) I’ve delved into. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I actually put time into understanding myself, my wants, needs, fears and what makes me happy. I’ve made eye-opening amounts of money following my natural curiosities, and I’ve become happier, healthier and smarter than school or university could’ve granted — which, if you told me just two years ago, I’d have thought you were on drugs.”
→ The Seven Lessons of Self-Mastery
“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.”
— Carl Jung
My Favourite Things This Week
Mark Cavendish — One of the greatest sporting comebacks ever (in my eyes). Three years of glandular fever. Three years of criticism and being written off. Mark comes back to the Tour and wins two stages (so far) five years after his last win and 13 years after his first!
Take Walks — I started going for short (~15 minutes) walks first thing in the morning, and it’s one of the best things I’ve done for my mind. I come home refreshed, and it gives me time to think about ideas.
A Question for You
We learn from our mistakes, yet we’re always so afraid to make one. Where is this true for you?
Wishing you a great week.
P.S: what a vibe.