I’m fond of saying something I swiped from one of my favorite thought leaders, Seth Godin: “Fail big or fail often”. I tell my team members I don’t care which one they choose, but if they are not failing then they are not pushing themselves hard enough to find their limits. They are only staying in their comfort zone and not risking anything personally or professionally to really find out who they are. Of course, I give them a safe space to fail and provide air cover when needed.
It is an important distinction, failing by reaching out of your comfort zone to find your limits, but today I want to tweak that a little. Obviously, failing, by definition, has negative connotations. I am not trying to contribute to a philosophy of failure for the sake of failure (but using the word “fail” to illustrate what success looks like does make a dramatic talking point).
Instead, what I want you to consider is embracing a life of experimenting. When we experiment, we are not playing a pass/fail game. We are trying something new, reviewing the results, and either re-assessing and trying again, or adopting, tweaking, and moving forward.
When I realized this, I realized how much I have already embraced this idea and how much of my life revolves around experiments. I think experiments are important because they help define who we are. They help us learn what we are capable of and drive us to improve. I invite you to consider what you can experiment with in your life.
Here are many (but certainly not all) of the life experiments I have tried. Some of these I continue to practice. Some I have discarded. Some I am still tweaking and practicing. I encourage you to try some of these or create your own:
- Being vegan. I did not start animal-free and I failed at maintaining a vegan diet many times before I got it (mostly) right.
- Waterless showering. I tried using dry shampoo and some weird astronaut soap for a week. I made it three days…
- Fasting one day a week.
- Eating food with absolutely no added spices for three months.
- Turning my whole wardrobe into a two color palette (black and gray) that I could simply mix and match without giving thought to what I was going to wear each day.
- Only shopping at local merchants, no big box stores. This was a very worthwhile one. Highly recommend.
A full year of sleep experiments, including:
- Going to bed one minute later and waking up one minute earlier every day until it affected me mentally and physically (turns out I only need about 4 hours sleep to function normally).
- Sleeping on the floor with no pillows.
- Following a Circadian rhythm (sleeping about 4 hours during the day and about 4 hours at night).
- Taking a three-week vacation and logging how much sleep I naturally provided myself when I removed all time cues. I started a stopwatch when I went to bed and stopped it when I woke up to track how many hours I slept and I removed all clocks and watches from the house, plus moved my bed into the walk-in closet so I could not use the sun as a visual time cue. Incidentally, when I am left to my schedule and free to go to bed and wake up when I please, I average about 5 hours of sleep per night (and go to bed somewhere around 3:00am) and wake up completely rested (around 8:00am).
…and much, much more. I continue to experiment with my body, with time management, even with my blog (I recently turned off commenting and date-stamping posts and started focusing on publishing to my public profile, for example). I love experiments and living an experimental life.
So today’s lesson is easy: learn about yourself or the world by trying new things, considering the results, and trying again or trying something entirely different. The idea is to learn. I hope you come up with some great experiments of your own. Feel free to share about your experiences or ask questions on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Tumblr.
Have fun experimenting!