The Science of Getting "Unstuck"
From Messi to Mozart, psychologist Adam Alter talks breakthroughs and overcoming plateaus
NYU psychologist Adam Alter is this week’s Q&A subject, and I took so many notes in his new book, Anatomy of a Breakthrough: How to Get Unstuck When It Matters Most, as to obliterate the margins.
Because my Q&As run long, I’m going to leave the intro at that. A little housekeeping, though:
At the bottom, there’s a “lightning round” where questions and answers are each limited to two sentences. You can search “lightning” (or scroll until you see these:⚡⚡) and jump down there for some tidbits if you’re in a rush.
Second, I’m thinking of breaking some longer Q&As into two posts. I’d love to hear feedback on that idea in the comments below. Would you like to receive two-part posts that preserve more content? Or would you prefer more compact Q&As?
And now, to the interesting stuff…
David Epstein: Adam, first of all, can you describe what it means to get “stuck,” in the context of the ideas in this book?
Adam Alter: I'm particularly interested in stuckness that’s both enduring (as opposed to lasting hours or even days) and within a person or organization's control (as opposed to, say, being unable to travel during a pandemic or being unable to afford a yacht if you're living paycheck-to-paycheck). I'm interested in enduring stuckness because it turns out to be very common. I'm running an ongoing survey on thousands of people around the world, and so far everyone has been able to tell me — usually within thirty seconds — about one area of their lives where they feel stuck, and have felt stuck for some time. With the right strategies or techniques, most of those instances of stuckness aren't intractable.
DE: Early in the book, you write:
“The most important principle is to take action even if you’re moving sideways. Action is the great unsticker because it necessarily replaces inertia with movement.”
This reminded me of a phrase I love, told to me by London Business School professor Herminia Ibarra, whose work on job transitions I wrote about in Range. She said: “Act and then think.” It’s a simple reversal of the parental advice to think before you act — which of course is sound in many instances — but she was making a point about progressing toward work that better fits you; we can’t just introspect our way to a better fit, because our insight into ourselves is constrained by our roster of previous experiences. So we actually have to do stuff and then reflect on how it went, and use that new knowledge to pivot. Is there some similarity with what you’re saying, that you can’t just think your way out of a personal quagmire, you actually have to do something different and then reflect?
AA: Yes, there's certainly some overlap. Herminia's idea, as I understand it, is that you gain insight from acting, and that insight guides you more effectively than planning alone would do. I'm suggesting, similarly, that acting has two benefits when you're stuck. The first is that it delivers the message that, hey, you're not actually as stuck as you may have thought. It's within your power to act, and the psychological force of that insight can be tremendous. So much of being stuck is mental, so action in any form delivers a jolt to the sense that you're mired and incapable of making progress. The other effect is more like Herminia's suggestion that you might actually learn something useful from acting. It might signal that you're moving in the right direction, inspiring more of the same behavior, or it might tell you to pivot, as you put it, to consider a different approach.
One of my favorite examples of this "action above all" principle is something Jeff Tweedy, the frontman of [rock band] Wilco and a writer, explained about his own process. Like most creatives, he's felt stuck from time to time. His solution, as he describes it, is to "pour out" the bad ideas as though they're scum sitting atop a pond of fresh water. When he feels he can't write or compose, he'll actively try to write or compose bad songs or sentences, metaphorically pouring out the bad ideas to make way for the good. Sometimes those bad songs and sentences turn out to better than he expects, which is an added bonus, but even when they're not useful products themselves, they seem to liberate other ideas that sit beneath the surface of these inferior or unoriginal ideas.
DE: Can you share another example of action as an “unsticker”?
AA: What's interesting about action is that acting can be quite soothing when you're stuck. When we develop expertise in a domain, whether musically or artistically or intellectually or athletically, the act of doing the thing we're comfortable with becomes less mentally demanding and more rewarding. In the book, I talk about a series of interviews that talk-show host Dick Cavett conducted with Paul Simon in the 1970s. Simon began each interview quite shy and awkward, responding in a brief whisper to Cavett's opening questions. But Cavett wisely invited Simon to bring his guitar, and to strum a few notes to illustrate the answers to Cavett's questions, and as soon as Simon began playing he lit up. He was funny and entertaining and fluent, and his answers became less self-conscious and more expansive. Some of the comments on these YouTube videos noted this change. "He's so much more comfortable speaking after he sings," one person posted. "The moment the guitar was in his hands, he softened," noted another. Not everyone has Simon's talent, but across our lives we become fluent in all sorts of domains. The fluency we feel when performing those actions seems to inspire a similar mental fluency, just as playing the guitar made Simon more communicative as he answered Cavett's questions.
DE: Sometimes, the action should be less familiar, though, right? You write about the work of famed German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus on learning:
“Ebbinghaus didn’t spend much time considering why his ability to learn [sequences of letters] plateaued, but he was meticulous about showing that the same approach used over and over eventually stopped working. The same technique that drove you forward yesterday will leave you stuck in place today.”
Again I think this orbits the idea of the need for personal experimentation. I have this saying I repeat to myself when I think I’ve hit a plateau: “You don’t get better by lifting the same weights the same number of times everyday.” You may not get worse, but you don’t get better. Is that the right idea? If so, can you give an example of where people might see this plateau in their own lives, and what they might try to get off of it?
AA: Yes, exactly. This plateau effect is surprisingly robust across all sorts of contexts. Ebbinghaus showed that it applies to learning, and one study of thousands of people across a seven-year period echoed your example, showing that most people who followed the same training regime without change plateaued somewhere between their first and second year of training. There's nothing wrong with plateauing if you're happy where you are, but humans are achievement-oriented as a species, and we tend to feel stuck even when objective standards suggest we're fixed in a "good" place.
These plateau effects happen in any domain that involves repeat performance: athletics and fitness (e.g., practicing basketball shots); learning and memorizing (e.g., learning a new language or skill); creative pursuits (e.g., painting or writing or composing music the same way day after day); and I think even in personal communication and relationship contexts. You'll never develop deeper relationships with people, whether personal or work-based, if you always default to the same patterns of communication and disclosure. There's a great classic social psychology study showing that people become closer to each other by disclosing progressively more revealing truths about themselves. You don’t start by telling people your dreams and fears, but by graduating one small step at a time—rather than plateauing at the same level of "comfortable" disclosure—you quickly develop a closeness with that person. (This idea underpins the now-famous "36 questions to make you fall in love" concept pioneered by Art Aron and his colleagues.)
DE: I hadn’t heard of those questions! I’m definitely going to check that out.
Readers of this exchange who have read Range may be sensing an undercurrent of resonance here — constant experimentation; changing up what you do; having to try things to progress rather than introspecting alone, etc. To me, these fall under a theme that I think is really the idea on every page of my book, (but that would’ve made a less marketable subtitle): sometimes the things you can do to get a head start, or to optimize in the short-term, will undermine long-term development.
In Anatomy of a Breakthrough you write:
“A second cause of plateaus is that we’re myopic, or shortsighted. We prefer an adequate solution now to a great solution in the long-run.”
I’m enjoying some confirmation bias here, but I really think this is such an important idea, but hard to operationalize. Optimizing for right-now feels intuitive, and good. Can you share an example of this kind of myopia, and perhaps what we can do about it?
AA: This short-term/long-term tradeoff is the beating heart of so much behavioral science research. Humans are, as social psychologists Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor put it, cognitive misers—we tend to think only as deeply as absolutely necessary right now. We instinctively do what makes sense now instead of recognizing that we'll face thousands of consecutive "right nows" that would be collectively better lived if we were to plan for them today. In my own research, for example, I've explored overspending today at the expense of having money tomorrow; overeating today at the expense of better health tomorrow; and spending time on "fun" activities today at the expense of necessary but less-fun tasks that end up burdening you more tomorrow. It's okay to live for today sometimes, but chronic short-termism produces plateaus by undermining your ability to plan for the future. A strategy that serves you well not just today but tomorrow and next week requires planning, restraint, and energy.
DE: But there’s also another side to this. I really enjoyed the nuance of the book, because I came away with some dichotomies in my mind that I think we need to balance. We noted above that optimizing for the short-term can cause you to miss better solutions. On the other hand, you write about how sometimes we really need to accept good-enough actions because perfectionism drives us to get stuck. So how do we balance the drive to find better long-term solutions with the danger of perfection paralysis?
AA: It's funny you mention nuances. I expected to land more firmly on strong conclusions one way or the other, but often encountered paradoxes and apparent contradictions. For example, the best way to get unstuck is often to do nothing right now, which contradicts the instinctive tendency to flail when you feel trapped. But doing nothing can't be the only solution to your problems, because doing nothing is what got you stuck in the first place. The book is really a series of logical "if X happens then do Y; and once you've done Y, but not before, you can consider Z." And I think that's true of life, too. We get stuck because life is messy, so it's not surprising that many of the solutions to our problems involve caveats and qualifications.
On their surface, the examples you mention above sound contradictory, but I don’t think they are when you consider them more carefully. Perfectionism—or maximizing, as we say in my field—is almost always the wrong goal for most people. Maybe you should strive for near-perfection when you're picking a life-partner or deciding where to live, but most of the time a good-enough solution is fine. The problem with perfectionism is that it raises the good-enough threshold to unreasonable levels. If the path ahead doesn’t exceed those levels, you'll stay fixed in place—stuck—because you've decided ahead of time that only perfection is good enough. You can focus on the long-term, rather than constantly choosing good-enough options right now, without being perfectionistic. You can do that, for example, by saying to yourself: "I'll do what's best in the long-run without worrying about whether that’s the perfect long-term solution." That rule means you're neither short-termist (ignoring the long run) nor perfectionistic (only moving ahead if you've found a perfect solution).
That general approach—resolving apparent inconsistencies by reframing them—was a big feature of the book, and it changed how I think about being stuck. In the West (e.g., the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia), we tend to find these apparent inconsistencies paralyzing. How do I resolve the idea that I should both live in the moment and optimize for the long-run? People in the East (e.g., China, Japan, South Korea) tend to be more comfortable holding two apparently contradictory ideas in their heads at the same time—known as dialectical thinking. It's much easier to avoid being stuck if you don’t fetishize perfection, and if you're capable of saying: "These two paths forward have pros and cons; neither checks all the boxes, but I'll choose the one that seems best when I balance immediate and longer-term considerations."
DE: At the start of your answer there you glanced off of another of the dichotomies in the book, which has to do with action versus patience. I started this chat with a major takeaway of the book — that when you’re stuck, you often have to act differently in order to alter your inertia. But you write at length about how sometimes when you’re stuck, you actually need more patience. How should we balance these ideas?
AA: Pausing and acting are both important, but they're important at different times. If you've been inert for months or years, it's important to act to unstick yourself. But when you're stuck, particularly if you've only just become mired recently, your instinct might be to act too rashly or too soon. On a scale of minutes or hours, you should spend some time considering your options before you act. On a scale of weeks or months, no degree of thinking and strategizing will unstick you unless you act. So, pause first, and act later—but make sure you don’t spend too long pausing and thinking, because all of that strategizing has value only if it ultimately leads to action.
I'll give you an example that I discuss in the book: Lionel Messi's approach to each soccer match he plays. I think Messi is the best soccer player of all time. Messi spends the first three or four minutes of every game ambling about the center circle of the field. If you plot the movement of Messi versus the other outfield players on the pitch, you'll see a jumble of lines darting up and down the field, where Messi is almost static. In fact, across his career he's scored at least one goal during every one of the game's ninety minutes, except during minutes one and two.
Those minutes of calm are invaluable, though, for two reasons. First, they soothe Messi's nerves. He's famously and surprisingly anxious. The second effect of pausing is that he studies his teammates and opponents for idiosyncrasies and weaknesses that inform how he plays the rest of the game. He sacrifices two minutes of action for the eighty-eight-plus blockbuster minutes that inevitably follow. Now, Messi's a great player because he gets the balance just right. Without that pause he might be less effective, but extend the pause to ten or fifteen minutes and his influence would shrink. The key is to balance pausing and acting, and to recognize that both have a place in a well-executed strategy.
DE: Another short/long-term tradeoff!
Ok, warning: David’s patented prolix question alert. I felt my own sort of synthesis brewing while I was reading the book. For years, I’ve been interested in self-regulatory learning, which basically amounts to explicit reflection on what you’ve done as a means to extract the most possible learning about what to do next. I first learned about this way back when I was writing The Sports Gene; a scientist who had followed Dutch soccer players from age 12 found that those who made it to the pros engaged in a lot more self-regulatory learning, and that helped them get off performance plateaus, because they’d get a better understanding of what they needed to learn. (There were also requisite physical characteristics, like if a kid couldn’t hit 7 m/s in a sprint, they weren’t going to the pros, period.) She found the same thing in students who did better in school.
So I started trying to apply this myself, keeping a reflection journal where I answered the same questions repeatedly. At one point, I left being a staff writer at Sports Illustrated (with a cushy office 32 floors over 6th Ave. in Manhattan) to be an intern at ProPublica because I felt my learning was starting to plateau, and I needed to be around people with different skills.
I was thinking of this while reading about the contrasting tactics in your book — action vs. patience; the search for better solutions vs. paralyzing perfectionism, etc. One of my personal takeaways was that maybe we need to do more explicit reflection, because we have to understand our own rhythms. Are you mindlessly doing more of the thing that got you to this plateau? Maybe you need to force a different action. On the other hand, maybe you just need to persist. You note that people tend to think that good creative ideas come quickly or not at all; but that notion — the “creative cliff illusion” — is basically wrong (with apologies to the Beat Generation writers). As we generate more ideas, we’re more likely to have good ones, so we need to have patience and keep chugging before jumping ship. In other words, don’t stop trying too quickly.
Sometimes staying the course is the way to get unstuck, and sometimes changing course is the way. What do you think about this idea that you’re offering a toolbox that requires us to pay a lot of attention to ourselves so we know which tool to use when we get stuck?
AA: You've hit on the number one question people ask about the book: when should you quit, and when should you persevere? There's a fair amount written about the benefit of both decisions. In the "quit" corner, you have books that literally exhort you to quit (Annie Duke's Quit is an excellent recent example), and in the "persevere" corner you have other equally strong books (like Angela Duckworth's Grit) that promote perseverance. Both Annie and Angela are smart enough to recognize that you shouldn't always quit and you shouldn't always persevere, but the fact that two very smart writers endorse apparently opposing views suggests that there's great value in both—and particularly in knowing which path to choose when.
One of the ideas I like, which draws on your explicit reflection strategy, is to track the gap between where you'd like to be and where you are across time. In other words, if you're failing, are you failing by less as time passes? Are you getting closer to your goal? Are you developing mastery, or are you plateauing, or—worse still—are you regressing over time? Quitting seems like the smart move if you're regressing; it seems like a reasonable decision if you're chronically plateauing and have better ways to spend your time and energy; but it seems like a bad idea if you're failing by less and less each time you try.
Another useful dichotomy I discuss in the book—and I know you've thought and written about it, too—is the difference between exploring and exploiting. Exploring involves trying new things; being open to alternatives; and generally doing what you tell us to do in much of Range: to keep our options open, and not to restrict ourselves too soon. When you explore, your default response is "yes." You say “yes” to new opportunities, to serendipitous discoveries that reveal themselves by accident, and to trying new approaches and skills. But you can't explore forever, and eventually need to exploit, or to pour your effort into the narrow approach you've decided, based on your exploring, is the one you'd like to pursue. Here your default response is "no." You're greedy about preserving your resources for the avenue you've chosen, and therefore have to turn down the same opportunities and serendipities that might be attractive during the exploratory phase.
I mention this because there's a lot of evidence that career highlights, breakthroughs, and hot streaks of productivity, tend to happen when we've explored and then exploited. (There's a string of great papers on the topic of hot streaks—when people have golden periods during their careers, and how to predict when those periods might arise.)When you're stuck, and you're trying to decide whether to quit or continue, another way to reframe that question is to gravitate back to a mode of exploration. You don’t have to say "yes" to every opportunity, but you should become more careful about always saying "no." The benefit of this reframing is that it doesn’t dichotomize quitting and persevering; it recognizes that you can keep doing what you're doing, but perhaps with more room for alternatives. I often advise my students to do something similar when they're stuck in jobs they don't love. Don’t jump ship immediately, but become more receptive to alternatives as you plot your next move. Become more exploratory rather than quitting wholesale right now.
DE: To continue with this understanding-our-personal-rhythm idea I tossed out, you write:
“If you want to succeed really, really badly, the paradoxical solution proposed by many successful people is to ease up.”
And you write about how Mozart had these very slow periods between bursts of productivity. This reminded me of a (translated) letter I read written by Mozart’s father. In it, Leopold Mozart complains of his son:
“He is far too patient or rather easy-going…he has the sum total of all those traits which render a man inactive; on the other hand, he is too impatient, too hasty and will not bide his time.”
So, that sounds weird. First, because we don’t usually equate Mozart with being lazy. Second, because there’s quite a contradiction in a small space there! Do you think you could have saved Leopold some fatherly angst?
AA: I loved learning about that aspect of Mozart's character—that he wasn't locked in overdrive. The same on-off switch was present in Einstein, who lay for long periods staring at his ceiling. As you say, we imagine titans like Mozart and Einstein (and Messi) working at full capacity eighteen hours a day.
For some people, working hard all the time works. Kobe Bryant was famous for training longer and more intensely than his teammates and competitors. But most people don’t function that way. We need periods of slowness between bursts of quickness. Though we have a cultural fetish for hard work, the evidence is clear that, for sustained productivity, and for success across years and decades, pauses and slow periods are essential.
Going back to your question, then, I'd tell Mozart's father that alternating between "inactivity" and "impatience" can be hugely productive. That's true in other areas of the psychological experience, too. Some people prefer to be mildly contented all the time, where others derive greater happiness and meaning when their lives are peppered with high highs and low lows.
DE: I want to switch gears a little. I’ve written about how diversifying the brains in a problem-solving group can be powerful, so I thought it was really cool to read how you framed a certain sequence of research findings. In my mind, you sort of went along this progression: 1) Does bringing an outsider into a problem-solving group that’s stuck help the group get unstuck? Yes. 2) Ok, but what if the outsider is incompetent? Still helps! 3) Seriously? Then let’s take it one step further. What if the outsider is (unbeknownst to a remote team) an AI bot that is behaving randomly… what happens then, and why?
AA: I like how you unpacked that logical thread, because it's how we do much of our research work in the behavioral sciences. First, ask if something potentially surprising is true. Second, if it is true, ask if a more extreme version is also true. And third, if that more extreme version is also true, take the idea to its logical limit and ask if a totally outrageous, outlandish version is also true.
That's what you have here. A lot of teams are stacked with individuals of similar background, temperament, expertise, attitudes, and values. That produces harmony, but it can also produce friction. When one person is stuck, you don’t need ten similar people to compound that stuckness; you need people who are conspicuously different from each other so they offer what researchers call "non-redundancy."
In this case, you're right: in the extreme version you described, you can ask a team of people to work on a difficult puzzle, and they'll do better—not worse—when you ask a chaotic AI bot to deliver random advice. It's a striking result, because it both makes sense when you think about it more deeply, and also contradicts the idea that chaos is unhelpful. In this study, the chaotic "black sheep" bot was an unsticking agent that pushed the team to overcome friction on the road to solving the puzzles it was tackling. Black sheep do this through two routes: they offer new ideas (i.e., the content of their ideas is different); and they offer new ways of thinking (i.e., they push you to think about the problem from different angles). Both are useful, and so in this case the random bot was an effective aid.
DE: This makes me think of a conversation I just had with the brilliant novelist Isabel Allende (who is now more translated than Cervantes!). She mentioned that she was writing a children’s story, and that ChatGPT was basically able to recreate it with prompts, which convinced her that she’d written something trite and had to do better. She seemed excited by that.
Back to that issue of injecting new blood into a team, which is a really important one we’ve both written about. You have this great section in the book on research into the TV show “Doctor Who,” which afforded a pretty unique sample of creative output. Can you describe that research?
AA: “Doctor Who” is the world's longest running TV show. It's been on air, with a few breaks, since 1963, and it's broadly about an alien being called "The Doctor" who travels through time and saves innocent Earthlings from harm. A show that runs for thirty-nine seasons obviously can't run with the same cast of actors and crew, so over the years the identity of the Doctor has changed fourteen times (when the character dies he's reborn in a different body) and the cast revolves constantly. The show had long periods of success, but also endured long periods of stuckness, where its audience fell, and its episodes lost steam and originality.
A team of researchers led by Bocconi School of Management professor Giuseppe Soda had the brilliant idea of measuring the relationship between the "non-redundancy" of an episode's crew, and the quality of that episode. Basically, the crew consists of between two and five individuals per episode (a mix of writers, directors, and producers), and some of those teams have worked together on other projects, and use very similar approaches, while other teams include people from very different backgrounds who've never worked together before. Non-redundancy is a mathematical attempt to capture the diversity of the crew, and Soda and his team found that non-redundant crews were far more likely to produce episodes that were rated by fans as better and more creative. The injection of novelty—including black sheep in a creative team—seems to unlock creative value.
DE: Fascinating, and I think that aligns really well with “injection of novelty” results I wrote about in Range, on boosting creativity in teams from Broadway shows to scientific research.
Ok, so, the list I made has too many more questions. In the interest of getting more info in, but not making this newsletter preposterously long, I want to move to a lightning round. I’ll ask questions in no more than two sentences, and you respond in no more than two sentences.
DE: In projects, people have momentum near the beginning and the end, but tend to slow down or get stuck in the middle. What’s something we can try to avoid this midway lull?
AA: The best thing you can do is to split longer goals and experiences into a series of shorter subgoals and subexperiences that each involve their own small reward or waypoint, thereby shrinking and even eliminating the "middle." Using this approach, for example, marathons aren't 26.2 miles long; they're 262 instances of a tenth of a mile.
DE: In writing about so-called “desirable difficulties” — tactics that make learning more difficult but better — I’ve mentioned that difficulty is not a sign that you aren’t learning, but ease is. For knowledge work and creative work, do you think the idea of finding “flow” is overrated?
AA: No, I think flow is tremendously valuable, because it feels great to enter a flow state, and that feeling reinforces your decision to develop and hone your skills in that particular domain. The problem, instead, is that we don't also make room for states that induce disfluency or difficulty, which should occur (according to research) during roughly 15-20% of practice sessions.
DE: Why do you advise people to diversify their interests strategically, and in each area of their lives?
AA: As a young grad student, I put all my eggs in one research basket, and then discovered six months later that someone else had been doing and published the same work just as I was getting ready to submit it for publication. To overuse the metaphor, you never want one cracked egg to matter as much as that one did to me, so diversification ensures that others remain to take its place.
DE: Distanced self-talk is basically the idea that we should give ourselves advice by pretending like we’re advising a friend with the same issue. Why does this help us get unstuck?
AA: There are many reasons, but one is that you're getting two pieces of advice—one from your intuitive self, and one from the distanced self that treats you like a friend—and two pieces of advice are often better than one. With two pieces, you can weigh their relative strengths and weaknesses, and often the "average" of those two pieces of advice is better than either single, more extreme piece on its own.
DE: Back when I was running the 800, at a certain point I forsook overall time goals for small, actually actionable goals, like “move with 300 meters to go.” I think this is somewhat akin to what you describe as “atomizing” a challenge, so what is that?
AA: I could go on for pages about this, but the basic idea is that goals are self-defeating because you exist in a failure state (e.g., you're not running as fast as you'd like) until you succeed, but success is anticlimactic and so you just create a more ambitious goal to replace the first one. Using a systems approach—like telling yourself "my system is to move with 300 meters to go"—works regardless of how fast you run, and so it delivers benefits for a much longer period of time, even as you improve.
DE: To continue with running: I used to get really nervous before races — and still get nervous before talks — but at a certain point I realized that the adrenaline boosted my performance, for both races and talks. Since performance stress doesn’t often disappear, does it matter how we frame it for ourselves?
AA: Yes, it does. The same stressful experience can seem like an insurmountable threat (bad for performance), or a motivating challenge (good for performance), so the way you construe the same racing heartbeat and spike in blood-pressure matters a lot for how those physiological states influence performance.
DE: My first book was basically an investigation of a list of questions I’d kept about things in sports that confused me. Why do you say we should keep a list of facts, ideas, and experiences that puzzle us?
AA: This may just be me, but when people ask, "What are you interested in these days?" I don’t always know how to answer. But by keeping an ongoing list of "things that fascinate me" or "things that puzzle me," I can look back at the list and recognize that, say, I've been interested in friction and the process of unsticking for the past fifteen years.
DE: You write: “From time to time, impose artificial constraints on yourself.” What’s an example, and why?
AA: I'm colorblind, but like to paint and draw, and so I'm often paralyzed when choosing paint and pencil hues. One way to deal with this—practiced for example by a French painter named Pierre Soulages who only painted in black—is to limit your color choices so you can devote your limited mental resources to perfecting a particularly technique or style.
DE: How frequently should we share (truthful) praise with people?
AA: As frequently as we can. You can't "spoil" people with too much truthful praise—you can only do damage by withholding it, or by delivering non-essential or harsh criticism.
Thanks to Adam, and thank you for reading. If you want more, Adam’s Anatomy of a Breakthrough is hot off the presses.
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Until next time…
Angela is one of my favorite conversation partners, and I think she has been working through the balance between grit and pivoting. Check out her newsletters: “Summer is for sampling,” and “The paramecium principle.”
For me, it didn't. Shout out from Brazil :)
Very cool idea!