Treat Failure Like a Scientist
When a scientist runs an experiment, there are all sorts of results that could happen. Some results are positive and some are negative, but all of them are data points. Each result is a piece of data that can ultimately lead to an answer.
And that’s exactly how a scientist treats failure: as another data point.
This is much different than how society often talks about failure. For most of us, failure feels like an indication of who we are as a person.
Failing a test means you’re not smart enough. Failing to get fit means you’re undesirable. Failing in business means you don’t have what it takes. Failing at art means you’re not creative. And so on.
But for the scientist, a negative result is not an indication that they are a bad scientist. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Proving a hypothesis wrong is often just as useful as proving it right because you learned something along the way.
Your failures are simply data points that can help lead you to the right answer.
Failure Is the Cost You Pay to Be Right
None of this is to say that you should seek to make mistakes or that failing is fun. Obviously, you’ll try to do things the right way. And failing on something that is important to you is never fun.
But failure will always be part of your growth for one simple reason…
If you’re focused on building a new habit or learning a new skill or mastering a craft of any type, then you’re basically experimenting in one way or another. And if you run enough experiments, then sometimes you’re going to get a negative result.
It happens to every scientist and it will happen to you and me as well. ‘ Failure is simply a cost you have to pay on the way to being right.’
Treat failure like a scientist. Your failures are not you. Your successes are not you. They are simply data points that help guide the next experiment.
To Boost Happiness, Stack the Pain
Here is an example…
On a normal day, you might have something annoying or painful to do (like paying the bills). And you also might have something good happen to you (like a friend sending you a thoughtful email).
If you read the email on your lunch break and then pay the bills when you get home from work, you will remember your day as going from a good experience to a bad experience. That’s the opposite of what you want.
However, if you decide to stack the pain early in your day — for example, if you pay your bills in the morning before you go to work and then read the email from your friend on your lunch break — you will remember your day as going from bad to good. As a result, you’ll feel happier because your brain likes it when experiences improve as time goes on.
Stacking the Pain for the Long-Term
It’s easy to worry about making the right choices with your life. However, if you choose to pursue things where the pain of the experience is largely in the beginning — like building a business, losing weight, or creating art — then you will tend to look back on those experiences fondly because they improve over time.
By comparison, doing things like trying to beat the stock market or become a professional gambler are very inconsistent. They can provide big wins, but they can also provide big losses at any time. The pain isn’t necessarily in the beginning. Because of this, these experiences are less likely to make you happy over the long-run.