Modeling an expert can shorten our learning curve and feel productive, but expertise has its limits. The moment we think we know something, we close off to other possibilities. A proven strategy is proven only in the past. You can’t always predict what will work. And nobody is an expert in what works for you.
Relying on expertise can close us off to solutions that may work better for us.
The Antidote to Expertise: Experiments
There are no rules. Only experiments. — Verlyn Klinkenborg
For each of us, finding the right path requires a willingness to experiment.
Which outcomes lead to your feeling fulfilled?
What strategy is most aligned
What is the blueprint that is aligned with how you work best?
What content will resonate with your audience?
The only way to know for sure is to test it and see what works.
What Experiments Require
The path of experimentation requires us to be willing to do three things:
(1) Willingness to Be Wrong
One fundamental truth I’ve learned about stand-up comedy is that the only way to know if a joke works is to test it, in front of a live audience. It doesn’t matter what you think, what your friends think, or what the best comedians think. The only people who count are the audience.
That means you must be willing to get up on stage and bomb. Every time. You must be willing to not get the laughs, and then tweak your material and adjust until you do.
In real estate, the only way you know the proper price of a home is to test it at that price. No matter what an agent tells you, or what the market reports say, the only opinion that matters is the buyer’s.
Experimentation requires a willingness to be wrong, and to listen to the feedback that matters.
(2) Willingness to Remain in the Mystery
I recently coached a client who is launching a new business. She thought she had her trajectory mapped out, but recent developments caused her to rethink her area of specialty and she was filled with doubt about her approach. She felt she couldn’t move forward unless she knew where the destination was.
Our human need for certainty imbues us with a desire for control over the timeline, process, or outcome. We want to know the right way, how long something will take, and where we will end up.
Part of experimentation is the willingness to be open to what wants to emerge, recognizing that we rarely get to dictate this.
Experimentation requires a willingness to be in the mystery of the unknown.
(3) Willingness to Detach from Outcome
When we are pursuing something that feels big — launching a business, selling a home, running a marathon, writing a book — sometimes we may not want to put the effort unless we can have certainty of achieving the result in the way that we desire.
I only want to sell my home if I can get $X for it.
I only want to run the marathon if I can finish under X time.
I only will write a book if I can get a publisher for it.
Of course, nobody wants to put in work for no reward. We want to know that we will be rewarded for our efforts. But just because the result we achieve isn’t what we desired doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. To stay away from something just because we aren’t certain we will meet our desired outcome is to close off to all the potential benefit of our actions.
The best way to approach any situation is with curiosity and wonder, with openness to the results we do achieve, and the lessons we can learn. It requires us to cultivate equanimity. We may gain valuable insight and lessons from our efforts that we wouldn’t learn if everything went according to plan.
Experimentation requires that we be willing to detach from our desired outcomes.
Throwing Things Against the Wall
Some people say that “throwing things against the wall to see what sticks” is not a “strategy.” On this, I wholeheartedly disagree.
There is no knowing. There is no certainty. Yesterday’s proven strategy is tomorrow’s experiment.
Another way to view this: it is liberating. Because when there is no certainty, then there is no failure. There is only hypothesis, experiment, and results.
Throwing things against the wall to see what sticks is not only a strategy, it is the only proven strategy.