In 2004, Gmail was made available to the public for the first time.
The developers knew the service wasn’t perfect, but they still went ahead and released a “beta” version.
That way, they could get valuable feedback from users to make the final product as good as possible.
And there’s nothing surprising about that strategy. A lot of companies use beta testing for their products and services.
What is surprising, however, is that Gmail didn’t officially exit beta status until 2009.
That’s a five-year long beta test!
How NOT to Deal With Failure
Most people tend to beat themselves up pretty bad for the mistakes they make.
Every setback is followed by heavy self-criticism and thoughts like:
- “I can’t believe I always do this.”
- “I’m so lazy.”
- “I don’t have any willpower.”
- “I’m such a failure.”
And on the surface, this might seem like a logical thing to do.
After all, if we don’t punish ourselves for straying off course, how will we ever be able to reach our goals?
But the problem with this strategy, of course, is that it doesn’t work.
Beating yourself up doesn’t make you perform better.
It makes you feel terrible. It makes you discouraged. And it ruins your self-confidence.
If anything, harsh self-criticism will make you perform worse than you did before.
So, what should we do instead?
Put Yourself in Permanent Beta Mode
I suggest we learn from the developers at Google and put ourselves in beta mode.
But instead of staying there for five years, let’s stay there for life.
That’s right. Permanent beta mode.1
The beauty of this mindset is that it changes how you deal with setbacks.
Because if you’re in beta mode, missteps are to be expected.
Instead of perceiving them as discouraging failures, they become valuable data for you to use to continually improve your approach.
You don’t expect to be perfect. And that’s a huge relief.
This is How to Never Fail At Anything Ever Again
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you didn’t perform as well as you would have liked:
- Remind yourself that you’re in permanent beta mode. You’re an imperfect human so don’t expect perfect results.
- Forgive yourself as quickly as possible. Not only will this make you feel better, but you’ll get back on track much faster. If you’re not used to forgiving yourself, try practicing self-compassion.
- Ask yourself what you can learn from this new data. What went wrong? And which strategies could you put into place to get better results in the future? If you’re not sure, here are some of my favorites:
- Start small.
- Do a ‘shitty first draft.’
- Use implementation intentions.
- Set up commitment devices.
- Change your environment.
- Celebrate your small wins.
- Team up with the right people.
- Conduct a weekly review.
Life is an Experiment
Put yourself in permanent beta mode. Treat every setback not as a failure, but as valuable data.
Then revise your approach relentlessly until you find a way that works.
It will make you much more effective. And it will make life a lot more fun. 🙂
“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”
― G.K. Chesterton
- I learned about this idea from Brian Johnson, who learned it from the book Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career by Jocelyn K. Glei.