Why positive feedback loops are essential for success

What fascinates me in a feedback loop mechanism is its great power of change that can turn life for better or worse. Imagine a good friend or a total stranger that once said you encouraging words at the exact time when you wanted to hear them. If the person you heard it from has enough status or just a little more trust from you, even something old-hat like “I think you will become a great man, don’t listen to what others say” could positively drive you all your life.

A key lesson of feedback loops is that things are connected—changing one variable in a system will affect other variables in that system and other systems. There are two types of feedback loops: positive and negative. Positive feedback amplifies system output, resulting in growth or decline. Negative feedback dampers output stabilizes the system around an equilibrium point.

Thomas Goetz from Wired wrote:

“ …So feedback loops work. Why? Why does putting our own data in front of us somehow compel us to act? In part, it’s that feedback taps into something core to the human experience, even to our biological origins. Like any organism, humans are self-regulating creatures, with a multitude of systems working to achieve homeostasis. Evolution itself, after all, is a feedback loop, albeit one so elongated as to be imperceptible by an individual. Feedback loops are how we learn, whether we call it trial and error or course correction. In so many areas of life, we succeed when we have some sense of where we stand and some evaluation of our progress. Indeed, we tend to crave this sort of information; it’s something we viscerally want to know, good or bad. As Stanford’s Bandura put it, “People are proactive, aspiring organisms.” Feedback taps into those aspirations.”

Understanding the feedback loops helps to choose right between the goals and the process, short-term and a long-term focus. When you set a goal, you could achieve the desired outcome and get a reward, or you could fail and fall into self-doubt, also nobody talks about the nervousness of the hours and days of self-measurement and crunching on the indicators that change every minute. When the process and feel of the energy spent in a moment are only tracks you are on, the outside world has not much to do with your success.

The most successful writers, podcasters, and entertainers focused on the long-term, and as life stories of the most creative individuals show, success will come when you are about to forget you waiting for it.

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