Only peak and end matter

Imagine you arrived at the airport on time, cruised through security, got the seat you wanted, your flight left on time and was smooth, yet when you landed, the plane sat on the runway for 30 minutes or your luggage was lost – how would you rate the overall experience? If you are like most people, you will not be happy about your flight despite the fact many things at the beginning of this trip went well.

You aren’t happy because you are wired to remember two parts of your overall experience: the peak and the ending. In psychology this is called peak-end rule. According to the peak-end rule, our memory of past experience (pleasant or unpleasant) does not correspond to an average level of positive or negative feelings but to the most extreme point and the end of the episode (Kahneman, 2000b).

Chip and Dan Heath also explore this concept in their book ‘The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.

They suggest that a peak moment requires at least one of the four elements below, with the best having all four:

  • Elevation: these are moments of happiness that transcend the normal course of events through sensory pleasures and surprise
  • Pride: these are moments that capture us at our best; whether it be moments of achievement or moments of courage
  • Insight: these are our eureka moments; they change our understanding of ourselves of the world and give us a moment of sobering clarity
  • Connection: these are moments which are social in nature; think weddings.

Evolution has built us humans to maximize our brainpower and conserve cognitive energy, by helping us avoid spending brain capacity on memories that are irrelevant and not intense. Findings supporting peak-end theory suggest that a small improvement near the end of an experience can radically shift one’s perception of the event.

If you are a business, think how can you improve last impressions about your product/service delivery or engagement. If you are about to go into a negotiation, think what the last 5-10min of your discussion should look like. If you are an event organizer, think what the last part of your event should look like.  

Seven Virtues of Failure

Another excellent article (below) about virtues of business/entrepreneurial failure.

I believe that failing daily does two things, it teaches me what I need to do better; and it reminds me of what failure feels like. Both are awesome outcomes.

Temperance (Gluttony)

“The downside to this level of ambition is that it’s not complicated to overload yourself. I’ve learned that ambition minus realism often equals failure.”

The truth is that ambition always has a lack of realism. Its impossible to believe you will one day be the best without believing first that you are capable of being the best. You have to be unrealistic in your expectations to truly become successful. Its the lack of realism that creates the potential for failure.

The best failures are measured and tempered with self control. Understand the downside of any potential failure. Keep the failure contained through careful understanding.

Charity (Greed)

“Sacrificing your core business by spending too much time on non-core ideas…It’s important to realize that not all ideas are worth pursuing”

Yet many people eventually fail through anlysis paralysis. I have a standard equation, out of 10 ideas, 8 suck. 1 is decent, and one is fantastic. To understand success through failure, one must be willing to become creative and think uniquely about the problem. By ideating, over time, several solutions are born. Being generous with yourself and allowing the ideation to occur, develops the potential for mass, measured failure.

And, failure always leads to success.

Diligence (Sloth)

“Where it can become mostly problematic is when it keeps you from seeing a project through to the end.”

I get what Jeffrey is saying here. Starting projects is easy. The middle is not that hard, but to finish? Often its a Herculean effort. Why? Because the completion of a project allows you to determine if it was a success or failure. The completion of a project allows OTHERS to say if its a success or failure.

Its often easier to live in the grey area of undone, than it is to live in the world of definition.

With failures its the same way. My favorite saying is “failure is not what you do, but what you do after.”

Persevere. Fail a lot. Fail early. But be amazing once the failures teach you how to succeed.

Chastity (Lust)

“Getting lured away from what you need to do by what you want to do.”

Lust is an interesting sin. By definition, Lust involves a lack of thought with a focus on immediate gratification. So how does the virtue, Chasity or Purity work with failure? Failure is pure. There is nothing about failure that can be soiled. Each failure creates the same emotions, usually regret and disappointment, and each failure creates the same reality. Yet, each failure, when learning occurs, also creates the very real case of being one step closer to success.

It is impossible to do nothing but succeed if each failure is coupled with learning. You dont have to lust after success to achieve it.

Humility (Pride)

“Success has this extra-special way of super gluing on the ‘I’m so awesome’ blinders and fooling you into thinking that you’re the smartest person alive.”

The greatest thing about consistent failure, is that it reminds you that you cant solve every problem. That you arent the greatest. That at the end of the day only the outcome matters in the measurement of success, not the process.

Failure teaches us that the real talent is the recovering and learning from failure. Turning that failure (perhaps matching it to a previous failure) into a road map for success is what separates the great from the good.

Allow the emotion of humility to provide you the open-mindedness to review your failures in such a way as to improve incrementally and move towards success.

Patience (Wrath)

“Wrath is energy, and like all energy it can be used to good or evil. I like to think about the ratio of windshield to rear-view mirror and use that idea to focus my energy on what’s next.”

If wrath is energy, then patience is focused energy. Its hard to fail, fail and then fail again. You want to push, you want to accelerate the process. You move into a world of immediate gratification and would rather skip to the success part of the adventure.

Patience is not just a function of waiting, or sitting idly by. Patience is actually a function of perseverance.

If you read Jeffrey’s post, and remove the “Seven Sins” metaphor, every point he makes actually is interwoven. Words like energy, focus, hard work are repeated themes.

Failure becomes a part of the process, removing the need for a perceived failure end point.

Satisfaction/Kindness (Envy)

“Just stay true to your original plans; see them through; and understand that more-often-than-not, these new and exciting concepts are rarely vetted for use beyond their original purpose, thus having the extreme ability to only add layers of complexity to what you already do.”

Envy kills success. Focusing on competitors is a horrible action that causes most companies to lose focus. If you are doing what you need to do, focusing and understanding the market, your competitors dont matter.

Envy creates failure. Simple enough.

But, the key to all of this, is if you understand the importance of failure to the creation of success; you will also experience true satisfaction.

You have succeeded and failed completely.

And, becoming a success at the end of the day is the greatest satisfaction.