Growth happens when we try something new. But starting that new thing can be difficult; sometimes it feels impossible. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You can break free and grow in ways you never thought possible by doing this.
Starting is scary. All too often, that fear stops us from stepping onto a path that we may even know is good for us. One reason that happens is because we marry starting with committing. We think that starting something also means that we are committing to what we started. For instance, if you decide to blog about food, but, then you want to change to a different topic, you may feel like you can’t because you’ve already written about tacos, noodles, and pizza. You’re committed. And changing subjects would feel like quitting or failing or flip-flopping. And no one likes feeling like that.
But that’s a lot of pressure. It’s unneeded and unnecessary. You’re just testing an idea out, not getting married to it.
Experimenting frees you from those feelings and makes starting easier, empowering you to grow.
Experimentation is a practice of trying things you’ve never tried to see what will happen and how they will fit you. It’s not a commitment to do anything other than to test ideas.
When you experiment, you’re not worried about being right. You’re being curious. Experimenting is about learning and discovering. You don’t need to find the answer immediately; you’re interested in asking questions. It’s about trying, attempting, and seeing if something works. And if it doesn’t, then you can try something else. You’re not flip-flopping, you’re just experimenting. You’re expanding your mind and experiences.
That’s exactly how some of the greatest success stories start.
Instagram is one of the most popular apps ever; but, when the founder began his entrepreneurial journey, he was just trying to learn how to code. Employing his meager skills, he cobbled together a little product. It wasn’t anything impressive; it was just a web app built on HTML5 that was basically a poor copy of a popular app in 2009. But that little web app was what helped him get his first round of funding from two prestigious venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and launched the beginning of Instagram.
Everyone knows the iPhone and the company that creates them—Apple. It’s one of the most successful companies ever. It bleeds beauty, excellence, perfection. You might even be reading these words on one of their perfectly designed devices, encased in glass and polished stainless steel, elegant simplicity in the palm of your hand. But, have you seen the very first Apple product? It is a wooden box with some circuits and computer chips. It looks more like a bird feeder than a piece of technology.
Before Vincent Van Gogh became a painter (affiliate), he spent years making black and white drawings. He was convinced that that was the best way to make “salable art.” So he obstinately drew and drew thousands and thousands of illustrations with ink and pencil, even as his family pleaded with him to use color and paint, even as Monet, Manet, and Pissarro began the Impressionist movement with colorful paintings. He tried watercolor and didn’t like it. Then he tried oil paint and loved it. But he kept returning to black and white drawings, defending them with vigor. Desperation finally broke him and pushed him to become a painter. Throughout his career, his goal was to sell his art so that he could support himself financially. He never did. But, what he didn’t know was that his work and story would be a legacy of inspiration for generations and generations to come; and his art would become some of the most salable pieces ever.
Instagram, Apple, and Van Gogh were products of experimentation. They started with a person just trying something, testing ideas. They may have had big dreams, but they all started with small humble steps, at first.
You see, one of the biggest lies we have floating around in our heads is that we need to make big moves to achieve big things. But we don’t. That’s not how businesses start. That’s not how they grow. It’s not how we grow. We grow from one experiment to another, trial after trial, learning after learning, failure after failure. And if one of them succeeds, build on it by trying more things.
If you want to start a business, try something. Don’t go big, go small. You don’t need to worry about an IPO. Don’t get ahead of yourself. There’s no pressure. Instead, build what you think might work. Why not? You don’t need to commit to a sector, business model, product, anything. Just start doing things that seem interesting. Don’t ask for permission; don’t try to change the world. Just do something that scratches your itch.
Do you want to start a blog but don’t know how to begin? Just write a quick post. Make it terrible. Have typos. If it’s not embarrassing at first, then you’re probably doing it wrong: Everything you create at first should make you blush, at least a little. Try various types of topics, styles, voices. Don’t want to make it public? Then don’t. Nobody said you had to. Try some things out and see how you like it. After you edit a post to where it’s less embarrassing, share it with people you trust or publish it. Don’t expect it to go viral. But put yourself out there, improve your writing and experiment one word at a time.
And if some of your experiments fail, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure; it means you’re learning. You are gaining knowledge and information on that thing about which you are curious. You are growing and expanding your experience lexicon. You are getting better by just trying something out. And by doing that, you are redefining what it means to fail.
Failure isn’t failing; it’s merely an opportunity to learn and then try something different, new. You’re experimenting.
That mindset gives entrepreneurs the ability to get over a failed business or product launch, and the resilience to try again. It keeps them pressing forward even if their first attempt is a little copycat web app, a computer that looks like a birdhouse, or believing that black and white can thwart color. They aren’t students trying to get that perfect test score; they are scientists getting messy, trying to make a break through. They aren’t in a classroom; they’re in a lab.
So are you.
Experimenting isn’t just a one-time thing; it’s a practice. It’s how you lead your life. And here is one way to begin practicing.
Start with your daily routine, all of the things with which you are comfortable: the restaurants you frequent, the people you know, the drinks you drink, the books you read, etc. Now, start going outside of your comfort zone by changing those a bit. Try a new restaurant, or, better yet, a cuisine you’ve never had; strike up a conversation with a coworker you always see but have never met, order a beer instead of your usual martini, read fiction instead of your beloved nonfiction. Whatever you do, do something that makes you uncomfortable, that’s outside of your norm. And do one of those acts once a week or once a month. The point is to repeat it: It’s a practice. This may be easy for some of you, but, for others, at first, it may feel really unnatural, bad even; but it won’t always be that way. The intensity will lessen, and it will get easier.
Even changing the smallest acts in your life and work will affect you in positive ways. You will start seeing things differently, better. Monotony isn’t the way to growth. Learning and going beyond the familiar does that—in short, experimenting.
And eventually, you won’t just be eating exotic dishes and drinking beer, you will be learning new skills, starting your first venture, expanding your network, finding new career opportunities—growing.
And you will find that starting is easy.
So easy that you won’t stop.
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