When we experiment, we improve.
Just ask Facebook.
The social juggernaut operates 10,000 different versions of its platform at all times to enable a constant state of experimentation.
That ongoing testing of algorithm tweaks, copy edits, and design alterations has fueled Facebook’s product improvements and driven it to an unprecedented level of success.
When I heard Mark Zuckerberg discuss Facebook’s approach to experimentation in a recent podcast interview, it made me wonder how we can use experimentation in our own lives to drive personal improvement.
But you’ve got to start somewhere, so here are five simple ones to try.
Each of the following costs no money, requires little time, and delivers valuable lessons you can use to optimize your life.
1. Try a new answer to the question, “What do you do?”
When we meet somebody new, one of the first questions we’re asked is some version of, “What do you do?”
We’ve all got our standard answer to the question and have a good sense of how people typically react to our answer.
That makes it the perfect opportunity for an experiment.
The next few times you get asked the question, switch up your answer in some distinct way.
Emphasize a different element of what you do, switch up the way you describe your work, or position yourself in a completely different way.
Maybe even answer the question without a reference to your “work” at all — what you “do” doesn’t have to be defined by how you make a living.
Then pay attention to how people respond to your new answer. Does it change their perception of you? Does it impact the formation of these new relationships? In what way?
Remember, the purpose of any experiment is to acquire data you can use to influence your behavior.
Your new answer doesn’t have to be better than the old one — it just has to be different enough to provide you with a point of comparison and an opportunity to discover something that may be valuable.
2. Offer unsolicited help to another person.
What would happen if you offered unsolicited advice about a subject you have expertise in to a person or company?
Who knows, but that’s the point — it’s an experiment!
If you’re an expert in marketing, find somebody you know (or don’t know) and send them some suggestions of how they can improve their marketing efforts.
If you’re a fitness expert, find somebody in the gym and offer to train them or teach them how to improve their technique.
You never know what will happen when you do so, but it’s likely these interactions will teach you something valuable.
They may lead to new opportunities for your business or help you better understand your own expertise because the process of teaching something often unlocks observations we may otherwise miss.
3. Use social media in a different way.
Social media is great for experimentation because we can get instant feedback.
As an experiment, try to use your favorite social platform in a completely different way for a few days.
If you don’t usually post personal stuff, post something personal and see what happens.
If you don’t ever comment on other people’s posts, do so and see where it leads.
If you’re addicted to social media, try to cut it out of your life for a while — I can pretty much guarantee you that experiment will have a positive result.
4. Ask a question you’ve never asked to multiple people.
You know that thing you’ve always wondered, but have never had the guts to ask anybody?
Well, here’s your excuse to do so.
Go ask a bunch of people the same question and see how they respond. It becomes an informal survey that generates new data you can use to inform and frame your thoughts on the topic.
If you’ve always wondered if other parents feel the same way about their kids as you do…go ask a bunch of parents.
If you’ve been curious to know whether other people in your field of work feel the same way about the direction the industry is headed…go ask them.
You’ll be surprised what you learn.
5. Live a day like a person you admire.
Ready for some advanced life-experimenting? Try this.
Research a person you admire — somebody famous or someone you actually know— and try to adapt their persona for a day or two.
Adapt their habits, how they manage their time, how they interact with others, or even consume the kind of information they typically consume.
When faced with different situations throughout the day, ask yourself how that person would likely handle it and try your best to take a similar approach.
Take note of how that person’s actions would differ from your own instincts and measure the results of choosing this different path of action.
The goal isn’t to become somebody you’re not, but rather to identify behavior patterns that may be beneficial to you and ones which you may want to adapt.
It’s also an experiment that forces you to recognize your own patterns and behavioral choices which can be every bit as valuable as trying on somebody else’s.
And when you’re done? You can pick somebody else you admire and try it again.
Because just like Facebook, there’s no shortage of experiments you can run.
ONE MORE THING…
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