The increase in error that accompanies trail blazing activities. For example, when traveling, we generally get lost more often. When studying brand new material we generally make more errors. When starting a new job, we generally mess up more often. When inventing something new we generally make a lot of non-functional prototypes.

Mistakes come with the territory, but they come more often in new territory. Everybody makes mistakes sometimes. But pioneering, everybody makes LOTS of mistakes.

Mind Readers Dictionary: The Podfast : Play in Popup

Mind Readers Dictionary : Play in Popup


This should be obvious to any clear-thinking observer. The trouble is, it’s not so obvious when we’re doing instead of observing. We’re accustomed to expect a certain amount of error from ourselves no matter what, as though error were strictly a function of our innate abilities, not circumstances. We therefore often expect to do better at new things than we do. We also tend to hold other people to a constant standard regardless of their circumstances, so we’re surprised when they flail about at something new.

Disappointment about an unexpected amount of errors makes us anxious, which can increase our errors further. Remembering the flail blazing factor keeps us from compounding our errors with this anxiety.

Flail blazing is a fact of nature. Literally. It’s evidence of the power of adaptation biological or any other kind of increase in fitness to one’s environment. Adaptation is largely a matter of trial and error learning. It takes a lot of trials in a constant environment to reduce the error. And one of our challenges is that no two days are exactly the same. If we could live the same day over and over we would learn faster, as Bill Murray did in the movie ‘Groundhog Day.’

From my record of errors I see
Brand new tests bring the worst out in me
So the better I get
at not being the best
The better that I’ll get to be.

‘Dude you can’t compare your success rate to your father’s. He went into an established profession at an established company. With your commitment to innovation, you’re flail blazing. Your situation is very different from his.’