I don’t expect you’ll be drinking mystery potions or hooking yourself up to a car battery anytime soon. But conducting personal experiments are probably the best way to find answers. By actually testing (instead of assuming) your habits, beliefs, methods and systems you can make real improvements.
Stop Theorizing, Look at Results
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his book The Black Swan, recommends against using complex theories if they can’t predict anything. Humans are theory machines, trying to explain things which might not easily fit into our reduced model of reality. By experimenting, you look at what actually works, not just what you feel should work.
If you set up your personal experiment appropriately, the results should speak for themselves. I know many online business owners who use A/B split tests religiously. Instead of assuming they know what will sell, they simply divide web traffic between two different pages and see what drives results.
Gaps in Knowledge
Humans have an ability to focus on what we do know, instead of what we don’t. The way we store information neatly conceals our own ignorance. And it is in these gaps that you can often find new opportunities and solutions. But if your own arrogance keeps you from trying, you may miss them entirely.
An experiment can fill those gaps. By giving an idea a full test, you get information that wouldn’t be available simply by guessing.
A personal experiment can never reach the calculated and sterile environment of a double-blind trial. But personal experiments reduce the chances that you’ve been acting on superstition instead of results. How would your life change if you found out:
You probably already have assumptions about the answers to these questions. Experimentation means you are bold enough to say, “I don’t know.” Being skeptical can let you trust the results of a test, more than superficial theories.
How to Run a Personal Experiment
Achieving objectivity with a sample size of yourself isn’t possible. But simply throwing scientific practice to the whim and “trying things out” is likely to lead to more bias, not less. Maintaining some measure of objectivity when testing ideas will ensure you get accurate results and they aren’t polluted by your own prejudices.
Here are some steps to running an experiment:
Experiments to Try
The world isn’t obvious. That statement itself may sound a little obvious, but I believe it is too often missed. We expect the world to behave according to explicit theories inside our head, when in reality, it is far more complex. Experimentation and focusing on actual results, allows you to take advantage of your ignorance.
Here are some ideas you might want to consider trying:
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