Embracing Disorder and Admitting Failure: Unlocking Productivity and Success



Jul 26, 20233 min read


Embracing Disorder and Admitting Failure: Unlocking Productivity and Success


In our quest for productivity and success, we often prioritize order and organization. We believe that tidiness and structure will lead us to greater efficiency. However, research suggests that there are situations in which disorder can be beneficial, and that the insistence on order may be oversold. Additionally, groups often struggle to admit failure, hindering their growth and progress. In this article, we will explore the advantages of embracing messiness and the importance of acknowledging failures, while providing actionable advice on how to incorporate these concepts into our lives.

The Benefits of Embracing Messiness:

While it may seem counterintuitive, there are instances where messiness can enhance creativity and productivity. A study revealed that individuals who relied on folders to organize their emails took longer to find what they were looking for, with no significant difference in success rates compared to those who used a more disorganized approach. Dumping all emails into a single "archive" folder actually led to quicker retrieval. This suggests that a pragmatic system of organization, based on the principle of keeping frequently used items on top, can be more efficient than a meticulously structured system.

Moreover, messiness can stimulate creativity. Creative work thrives on alertness, and being faced with a situation beyond our control forces us to pay close attention and adapt. The element of surprise and uncertainty that comes with disorder can keep us engaged and motivated. Embracing messiness allows us to break free from the monotony of routine and opens up new possibilities for innovation and originality.

The Importance of Admitting Failure:

In contrast to the potential benefits of disorder, groups often struggle to admit failure. The fear of falling apart and the desire to maintain a positive image prevent groups from acknowledging mistakes. This reluctance to change and learn from failures hinders growth and progress. Ironically, for-profit entities tend to be more sustainable than non-profit organizations because they have a self-sustainable nature. However, the best businesses are those that are not only profitable but also ethical, attracting the best talent and fostering long-term success.

Actionable Advice for Embracing Disorder and Admitting Failure:

  • 1. Embrace controlled messiness: Instead of striving for perfect order, allow a certain degree of controlled messiness in your daily life. Experiment with different organizational methods and find what works best for you. Focus on keeping frequently used items easily accessible and embrace the excitement and creativity that can arise from unexpected circumstances.
  • 2. Foster a culture of learning from failures: Encourage open and honest communication within groups and organizations. Create an environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth and improvement. Celebrate the lessons learned from failures and use them as stepping stones towards success. Emphasize the importance of adaptability and continuous learning.
  • 3. Prioritize sustainability and ethics: If you are involved in a business or organization, prioritize sustainability and ethics alongside profitability. By aligning your values with your actions, you can attract like-minded individuals who are committed to long-term success. Strive for a balance between financial stability and the greater good, knowing that there is diminishing marginal utility to money in your life.


In our pursuit of productivity and success, it is essential to challenge the notion that order and structure are always the best approach. Embracing a degree of messiness can enhance creativity and efficiency, while admitting failure allows for growth and progress. By incorporating the actionable advice provided, we can unlock our full potential and create a more innovative and sustainable future. So let us embrace disorder and acknowledge our mistakes, for therein lies the path to true success.


  1. "Embrace the Mess: The Upside of Disorder - Farnam Street", https://fs.blog/tim-harford-messy/ (Glasp)
  2. "Groups Never Admit Failure", https://nav.al/failure (Glasp)

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