If you’re like me, you might put a lot of pressure on yourself to “succeed” at things. To write a successful blog post, or launch a successful product, or have a successful interaction or meeting or date.
The emphasis on success brings a ton of extra pressure to a situation. It’s pressure we invent for ourselves. That pressure causes stress, and the last thing you need is extra stress in your life. Right?
Forget About Success
One way to never fail at anything, and to remove that pressure and stress is to look at things from a different angle.
Instead of trying to succeed at something, try framing what you’re doing as an experiment instead.
There’s no such thing as a failed experiment, not really. Sure, maybe your hypothesis won’t always be proven, but that’s not the same thing as failing. If your hypothesis isn’t proven, you just learned something you didn’t expect to learn. That’s hardly a failure. If your goal is to experiment and learn something, it’s pretty hard to fail.
Shift Your Goal
Let’s say you want to launch a new product. I know from experience that product creation can be extremely stressful. But what if you changed the goal?
Instead of “trying to launch a successful product” you could simply “launch an experimental product”.
That may just seem like semantics, but it isn’t. Read it again. It’s a shift of focus, that will ultimately lead to a better outcome (and probably a better product) anyway.
Look at Google Labs. Gmail was an experimental product, kept in “beta” mode for years. It evolved over time into something better. If it was launched with a single rigid goal, it might have “failed”.
The startup that pivots is a great example of embracing the experimental process. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a great book for any rigid founder to read.
I used to be one of those rigid entrepreneurs who “tried and failed”. Now I just try things, observe, learn and move forward (or sideways, or not). Oddly enough, I probably have had more success this way, and I’m definitely not as stressed out.
You Already Do This
If you want to buy a new car and you take one model for a test drive, and you don’t really like the car, would you say that was a “failed test drive”? No, it’s just a mini experiment where you learned something useful. Not a big deal.
There’s so much energy about failing that gets in our way. If we let go of that energy, I believe we can accomplish a lot more because we’ll try more stuff.
Failing vs. Learning
If you had the success vs. failure mindset, you could say that I “failed” on my juice fast because I ate solid food a few times. If you have an experimenter’s mindset, you would say that my juice fast experiment led to some interesting findings. Mostly, I learned that juice fasting is fun and made me feel good, but that I couldn’t exercise without consuming solid protein and that juice fasting while traveling is a pain in the ass. Those were learnings, not failures.
That’s why I do this blog and share things transparently. It’s not because I want to be a perfect person, I just want to learn new things and share them with other curious people. Like you.
Note: I was about to save this post as a draft without publishing it. Why? Because I just wrote this spontaneously after reading this post on Lifehacker, and I haven’t edited this post or added any pretty images or any of the other stuff I usually do before clicking that Publish button. Instead of worrying about publishing a perfect successful post, I’m going to walk my talk a bit and click publish anyway. I’ll call it an experiment in putting out unpolished content.
What do you think? Is failure possible in an experiment? Is this just semantics or could you look at things differently and benefit from a shift in mindset?
What are you working on right now that you could turn into an experiment?
Forget editing, this post is “perfect.” Perfect in the sense that it quickly and efficiently gets your points across and does so in clear and smooth language. This is my favorite line:
If you had the success vs. failure mindset, you could say that I “failed” on my juice fast because I ate solid food a few times. If you have an experimenter’s mindset, you would say that my juice fast experiment led to some interesting findings.
Thanks for actually hitting publish. It’s inspiring me to do the same.
John Muldoon says
Thanks Bradley! Thanks for encouraging me to hit publish, too. 🙂
if you summed eric ries book then i dont have to buy it, so im my eyes that makes this post a successful experiment. awesome thanks!
John Muldoon says
Thanks for the comment. If you’re an entrepreneur, I still think it’s worth checking out his book. Lots of great stuff in there.
I like how you make the distinction between a goal (specific) and habits. Can you make it a goal to have 3 new habits? just kidding =)
It was cool to know that you walked your talk and hit the “dreaded” publish button. What a successful experiment. People liked the post…
John Muldoon says
Thanks for the comment. I know you were kidding, but I’m fascinated by the idea of being able to build more than one new habit at a time. I think it should be possible if the habits were different enough, but I find it works best to stick to one at a time. 🙂
I appreciate the kind words.