this summer I devoted part of my time to some experiments. I wanted to test some ideas, have a reality check, find a way to bring me back on track in some areas and explore a mental model I’m developing.
Experimenting is the foundation of science, and it is the ultimate tool for proving or disproving our hypothesis. Experimenting is not limited to measuring in the usual sense, nor it is just a way to test a preconceived idea. Experimenting can also be put into action whenever you want to see a new situation, a sort of “what if” scenario. For a comprehensive and readable explanation of what can be regarded as “measuring” in a broader sense, I strongly suggest that you read “How to measure anything” by Douglas W. Hubbard, you can find it in my “Books I Read” page. The basic idea is that any process that expands your information about something is a measurement.
So, what did I do? I tried both “positive” and “negative” experiments. Let’s go over them in no particular order.
Negative experiment number one: hang out at the bar in the morning. Like many parents, I had to take some days off work to tend my children during summer school break. One week my son was attending a dance class in the morning, so my daughter and I had the opportunity to hang out with other children and parents at the cafè near the gym. Getting to know people better and to share parenting experiences is an excellent thing per se, and I enjoyed drinking coffee in a relaxed environment as well. Here comes the experiment: every day I tried to push myself beyond the point where I felt like “ok, now it’s time to go home and do something more engaging”. The result, quite predictably, was that after a little time I got used to the shallower conversations and to the “just go with it” feeling. Lesson learned: social imitation and delayed action can easily lure me into a trap. Better stay alert and either try to engage my companions in something more engaging or just say hello and go home.
Negative experiment number two: eat worse. During the past two years, I tried to develop better eating habits. Without going into too many details, and keeping in mind that I’m not an MD and I’m not suggesting you do the same things as I do, I almost entirely cut out carbs, especially sugars and white flour products, and experimented with intermittent fasting. Now it could be a good time to “go back in time” and look what it was like in the old days. For a couple of weeks (less than a week wouldn’t be enough, my body needed time to adapt to another dietary regimen) I hate three meals a day, had carbs, snacks, ice creams and pizzas. I tried not to overdo quantities, focusing only on a change of habits. Result? Grogginess, sense of heaviness, more hunger more often, sleepiness in a much stronger way than I expected! I went back to better standards ASAP…
Postive experiment number one: check my favourite radio station. For multiple times I switched on the radio in my car at different times of the day, recording how many times I hear music or good programs versus commercials or just fillers. That’s a good and quick way to assess what percentage of time you’d be devoting to quality stuff instead of toxic material. Currently, my tests state that almost 30% of the listening time would be a waste, so I decided to stick to audiobooks, podcast and CDs in my car!
Positive experiment number two: run more, run differently. Running is my number one sport, the only one I genuinely enjoy and look forward to practice. What I did is, quite literally, to try a change of pace: I bent more toward trail running, that is longer runs on unpaved roads and paths, with steeper climbs and descents up and down hills and mountains. Changing the usual pattern enabled me to develop muscles responsible for a broader range of movements (running on a straight paved road is just so much for variety), and I discovered some fantastic trails with stunning views, as the photograph in this post shows. Final result? Complete success, a positive habit was reinforced, and I’ll surely try different things again shortly.
Positive experiment number three: writing down stretch goals. Now and then (as suggested by the likes of Brian Tracy, Grant Cardone and Mel Robbins, again you can check my “Books I Read” page) I write down more or less ten goals, be they regarding my family, my hobbies, my personal development or my profession. I write as I have already achieved them, the purpose is to implant into myself a positive mood and some optimism regarding the goal. Remember that our mind constantly processes in the background what we feed into it, for better and for worse! Here is an example from my last writing: “I am wise. I always reflect before acting and never lose my cool. People come to me for mentorship and advice. I strive to go beyond first look and beyond (too) obvious conclusions. I often try to question myself and my conclusions. I meditate often. I manage my money properly, and I try to devote at least 5-10% of my income to the personal growth of my family and myself.” Wow, that’s a lot! It sounds like the dream of every philosopher, stoic or rational being, but it’s quite embarrassing to put it down in writing, let aside sharing it in a blog: it is so naive yet so true! Result? Still evaluating the process, but for sure my way of thinking about some aspect of my life has changed. I will be doing that again and again!
I hope you enjoyed this survey and, until next time, remember that the progress of knowledge is all about experimenting.