If you frame ideas as experiments, you can’t technically fail at anything. You're just going to prove or disprove a theory you've arrived at through experimenting. And if it doesn't work the first time, you can iterate and try something different. It doesn't work until it does. There's no formula that will ensure successful work. All you can do is generate ideas and test them. Succeed or fail, at least you’ve done the necessary work. Persistence is the most important trait of successful people. Hardly anyone is successful right from the start. Most try, fail, try again, fail, try again. Their backstories are full of errors, almosts and rejections – until they’re not. They picked up the puzzle box one more time. They kept choosing a new path until it led somewhere good. If the result isn't what you intended or doesn’t make you happy, you're now free. When you're working on an idea, you get caught up in making it work. There's vested interest in thinking, “I've come too far to fail now!” But if it does fail, lay all the puzzle pieces out and start from scratch. Try different pieces in unique ways. Go back to the start of the book and pick a new path. Avoid the dragon this time, since there's a road that bypasses him.
How I experiment I focus on the task at hand, not the end result. Focusing on the process allows serendipity and personal exploration to take over. Otherwise, I might inadvertently apply a subjective idea of how I want something to turn out, rather than what would be best for long-term discovery. I try not to create and judge at the same time. Creation and judgment are very different thought processes and can interfere with each other, so they must be done separately. I experiment and explore every idea first (writing it down, drawing it out, actually trying to do it). Only then do I move into editing, curating, and judging to improve and refine the idea.
I break the experiment down into the smallest tasks possible. Then, I work completely on each small task. Only at the end do I tie all those tasks together. This prevents me from feeling overwhelmed or scared about tackling such a big project. I remember that these are experiments. They’re not full-time business ideas. First, I figure out how to run the experiment using the least resources possible. What is the core or essence of my idea that I can quickly prototype? Then I get that prototype in front of as many people as possible before pursuing it further. I fail fast. I don’t repeat myself. The same experiment can’t have a different result unless I change the variables. If I experiment with an idea and it doesn’t work, I either change things up or move onto a new idea. There’s no point doing the same experiment over and over, hoping for something new to happen. If I want a different outcome, I have to change the experiment up a little — refocus for a new audience, try a different medium, or experiment with a completely new idea.
Everything I Know by Paul Jarvis
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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