Why we have to fail to succeed
Consider this simple dartboard. The obvious strategy is to aim at the center where we get 30 points for every hit.
Now Consider this mutant dartboard. Hitting anywhere on the right half costs you 500 points. Easily wiping out any point advantage you may have had. Nevertheless the best place to hit is still in the dark green spot in the middle. So you should keep aiming for it, right?
Your aim isn’t perfect. A dart arrow meant to hit just left of center could easily land in the red half. I’ve marked an „adventure zone“ in yellow, you want to hit there but not aim at it. A slip to the right and your score is toast. So when you hit the dark green spot you’re happy, because hey, thirty points are thirty points, but you also think „holly shit, that was close“.
I’ve been thinking about the concept of anti-fragility. The idea that some things not only react robustly to a disordered environment, but actually, up to a point, gain from it. The self-help implication being that there is a sweet spot of disorder in our life where we have the most opportunity for growth.
Here is a different curve for „gaining, up to a point, from disorder“. A slow ramp up where more disorder means more opportunity for growth and then, after the peak, a rapid descend towards ruin. We can’t precisely control the amount of disorder we are exposed to. It lies in the nature of disorder to be unpredictable and uncontrollable. So similar to the dartboard above we want to hit the sweet spot but not aim at it. Because slipping there is much more dangerous than slipping while aiming at the no-disorder-no-growth zone. So while we try to make our lives as predictable and boring as possible the moments that made us grow the most were when we failed at that and landed near the sweet spot by accident.