How often have you heard “practice makes perfect” — as if perfection were the goal. It seems like a lofty aim but a recent book shares research that puts a new spin on what really makes a difference.

Author Adam Alter shares neuroscience research that suggests the optimum rate of failure is not zero, rather it is about 16%. If you’re failing less than that, chances are that you’re not risking enough or trying new things that will stretch your capacity. If you’re failing more than that, maybe you’re pushing too hard or trying something too advanced and would be more successful backing up a bit. Like with so many things, there is what researchers call the “Goldilocks zone” where your failure is leading to productive results instead of demoralization.

Alter’s book seeks to do two things: 1) give people permission, even encouragement, to fail and 2) provide a benchmark to allow people to gauge whether they are failing too often or too little. Treat it as a permission slip to try things you’re not (yet) good at.

Anyone who has studied innovation knows that failure is inherent in any creative pursuit, whether that be the arts, business, relationships, or learning something new just for fun. Embrace Alter’s research to see failure as progress on your path rather than a setback.

Source: Anatomy of a Breakthrough: How to get unstuck when it matters most by Adam Alter, 2023

Thanks, Brian!

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