Life as an Experiment

How you see the world defines what it is like for you.

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On one of my longer runs (21 kilometers, I think) this summer, I was listening to podcasts by Steve Pavlina. I’m not sure how I ended up uploading them to my iPod, as I haven’t been an active reader of Steve’s blog for quite a while, and I think his stuff often goes to extremes that I find hard to agree with. But here I was, listening to Steve talk about fear. It was an interesting talk about how you can learn to control and overcome your fears, first by practicing, and then, ultimately, by changing how you see the world.

He said that the world we see is a reflection of what we believe the world to be, and I had to agree with him: you notice the things you want to see, and don’t see the rest. After that, Steve continued to topics that I found hard to swallow, and once again, I dropped out, not ready to buy into the idea that all this world is is a creation of my own mind and the rest of you don’t really exist outside my head.

But I did listen through the podcast, and at the end, Steve said something that got me thinking: after switching to this new world view, he has been more eager than ever to experiment with life and to try and learn the rules of this dream, as he calls it.

That, I agree with Steve, is a great way to live the life, no matter how you believe this world to function: test your assumptions, and by doing so, try to get closer to understanding what really works in this world and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to fail every now and then. If nothing else, this approach will turn into an interesting life!

If you have been following this blog for a while, you already know about some of the experiments I have tried in the past. But there are more coming as I try to learn and cultivate this approach of looking at the world as a series of science experiments and projects, following in the footsteps of my experimentation heroes. Just look at these things Tim Ferris, Steve Pavlina and the others have been experimenting with:

Tim Ferris

Tim Ferris’s blog is subtitled “Experiments in lifestyle design” so it’s clear that now we are at the core of the experimental lifestyle. While I’m not interested in everything Tim is interested in (like body building, for example), I enjoy reading his posts because of what they teach me about living an experiment. Check out these posts, for example:

  1. Vibram Five Fingers Shoes: The Barefoot Alternative. (I am trying out these shoes as we speak, so expect to read a post about them on this blog in a week or two)
  2. The Holy Grail: How to Outsource the Inbox and Never Check Email Again. (This is the stuff Tim is most famous about. But once again, it’s a result of experimenting with different ways to handle your communication. Not something he “just knew” from the start)
  3. How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour. (You thought learning a new language takes years of practice? Think again.)

Tim’s blog is full of examples like these three, so make sure to check it as a reference if you plan to start working on a more experimental approach to life.

Steve Pavlina

I already talked a lot about Steve in this post, but to me he is the archetype of the experimental mind. To Steve, nothing in this world is set to stone and everything that can be tested, should be tested. Here are some of my favorites from Steve’s experiments:

  1. How to Become an Early Riser. (This post got me excited about waking up earlier and using my mornings more effectively. But talking about experimental living, the next one is what we should really be doing…)
  2. Polyphasic Sleep. (Make sure to follow through the whole experiment!)
  3. Raw Food Diet. (Just like the polyphasic sleep experiment above, this is something I don’t think I could pull off. But definitely a great example of the experimental attitude to life)
  4. 30 Days to Success. (This is the powerful principle behind Steve’s experiments: trying things for 30 days to see what happens and then deciding whether to keep the habit or not)

You and I

Enough about famous experimenters. What about you and I? How can we nurture and grow an attitude of experimentation?

I was planning to put in a list of actionable steps for starting to live an experiment but then realized that that would sound too much like I already knew how to do it. I’m still experimenting with experimenting, so all I can do is to share my tips as I learn them, and encourage you to give this a shot as well! Let’s try this out.

So, what are you experimenting with today?

baguettes

11 thoughts on “Life as an Experiment”

  1. Jarkko, this is a great post. The words are so true, life is an experiment. We are here to try new things out, to push the boundaries, in my opinion. Great things happen when we are outside of the envelope.

    Tim and Steve are two guys I look to for inspiration and ideas, all the time – very nice people too.

    I hope you are enjoying your Vibrams – I have been using a set of Sprints since 2007 and I added a pair of KSO’s late last year. I’ve been running and walking in them for over two years and it is great.

    What am I experimenting with? The Vibrams were sort of the lead up to going totally unshod, and it is amazing how the feet adapt. I can now do some longish runs (10 km) completely barefoot on pavement or concrete.

    When I have to put shoes on (to go to work, for instance) – well, it just feels weird :)

    My goal is to do an ultramarathon eventually (like the Tarahumara, something like that – I know I will do it, slow and steady). I have not read Chris’ book yet but it is on order…

    -Brett

  2. Curiosity is the first step to experimenting. Kids are naturally curious but many allow this trait to fade away as they grow up. Instead of asking questions (of others, and of the world – with experiments) they stop.

    Another key with experiments is to write down what your predictions are. It might seem simple but this act improves learning a great deal.

    My father wrote a paper on teaching design of experiments which captures the power of getting people to experiment on things they care about. This reinforces the power of curiosity, experimenting about things you care about is fun and rewarding. You are curious about things you care about. Unfortunately many associate experimenting with school labs which they didn’t care about and they had no curiosity for.
    .-= John Hunter´s last blog ..CEO’s Castles and Company Performance =-.

  3. Hey Jarkko – that’s the beauty of life…for those who choose to pursue challenges, dreams, and new opportunities it is (our)one big chance to learn knew things. Experimentation helps us to move outside of our comfort zone and help us choose what path we want to go down.
    .-= Mark´s last blog ..Do Great Things Today! =-.

  4. @Äiti: Kiitos :) Nyt on hapanjuuri tulossa saunassa niin loppuviikosta pääsee pitkästä aikaa leipomaan kunnon hapanleipää. Saa nähdä, miten onnistuu.

    @Brett: Thanks! The Vibrams feel great so far. I have only run a short, 4 kilometer, test run so far, but I’ve been wearing them as my main shoes ever since buying them. I’ve been surprised how quickly my feet adapted to the shoes as I was expecting much more aches and pains.

    Running completely unshod is something I’d like to try too at some point. Good to hear that you’re getting used to it. And the ultra marathons, I can’t wait to be in good enough shape to give it a try. I know that for me it’s still something from the distant future, but I can always dream, right? :)

    @John: True, experimenting shouldn’t be something you associate with a classroom where a teacher tells you what you should experiment with. It’s so much better when your whole life is a lab where you try out things you are truly interested in figuring out.

    @Mark: Well said! Let’s keep experimenting. :)

  5. Jarkko – that’s great! That’s pretty much how I did it too, one step at a time. The more I wore them, the stronger my feet and legs became. Then I started going completely without, everywhere. You just have to watch for glass and dog poops!

    Yes – you can always dream. That’s how we make it reality, right? Dream about it, then make it real.
    .-= Brett Legree´s last blog ..small changes. =-.

  6. That’s a nice point of view Jarkko, taking life as an experiment. In some situations it could help if you just think it about as an experiment and just jump into the problem. I think I’ll apply this to some of the big decisions I’m probably going to make in the future, think about the situation as a social experiment and just go for it :)

    I tried to read through some of the links you mentioned here, and I agree that you can program yourself to do anything you wish or achieve anything you really want. On the other hand I don’t agree that pure productivity should be the measurement for success. What I seek is balance between the extremes. But maybe I’ll check them out later, seemed kinda interesting! Thanks for the info anyway.
    .-= Sakari´s last blog ..Is the sinewave just a wannabe squarewave? =-.

  7. Great post Jarkko!

    Makes you think differently about life and all the “truths” you hear from every direction. What is true actually?

    Today I was experimenting with Twitter and got some new Followers there. :)

    It got me this long to read this post, but now I added your blog to my RSS reader. So, maybe I’ll keep up with your posts better from now on. (BTW, you don’t have link to the feed on your site)
    .-= Lauri Laine´s last blog ..A new look and new goals. What’s happening? =-.

  8. @Sakari: I agree with you, more and more every day, productivity should never be the measure of success. In fact, these days I’m often thinking of going the other way, doing things slowly and enjoying them more rather than trying to fit in as much as possible in my days.

    The reason why I find these examples so fascinating is that they show how “hackable” the human body and mind is, and that if you put your mind on something, it’s possible to do impossible things. The productivity part is interesting too, but like you said, not a goal in itself (sometimes a good means for getting to your goals though).

    BTW, nice to see that you’re blogging too!

    @Lauri: Yeah, I need to add the RSS icon somewhere in this design too. The thing is that I’m still not happy with the looks and this is sort of work in progress… Thanks for the reminder, I had forgotten all about it.

    @Lauri:

  9. Hi Jarkko,

    I like your site! I found it through a comment you left on RowdyKittens. I want to say that I studied science in college, and have applied experimental mindset to my own life – if I come upon a problem or something I want to improve, I experiment, I consider different factors involved. And what gets left out? Bias and judgment. It will always be there somewhat, but I’m much more un-biased towards how I choose to spend my time and what sorts of activities I’d like to pursue. Thanks for your thought-provoking post =]

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