How to live with wild abandon—practically and scientifically
I gotta say it the way I feel it: I think we’re all too damn conservative.
I’m not talking politically. I’m talking about big life decisions. Big purchases, big adventures, big moves. Matters of the heart.
What to be when we grow up. What to do when we don’t like what we’ve become after we’ve grown up. How to develop an idea and manifest it to the world. How to take our life to the next level.
Should I take that job across the country? Should I marry him? When should we take that trip? Is it time to start that business? Should I sign up for that course? Could I really be an actor?
Most of us, most of the time, lean toward the “sensible” decision.
From a purely financial perspective, it may not have been the most sensible decision. But there came a point in our dialogue when looked at each other and said, “What are we thinking? Of course we should get an RV! When will it ever be a good time? How long are we going to wait to go on these adventures and create these memories?”
And we dropped the cash and had a blast. The cash is gone but the memories are priceless.
Balance is everything, I know. We can go overboard with the spirit of adventure and be downright irresponsible, sure.
There’s a place for the freedom of living in the moment and there’s a place for the constraint of delayed gratification, and there’s a wisdom to know the difference.
But all too often “sensibility” is really just a cloak for fear. Lame timidity masquerades as healthy caution.
I say we all ought to lean a little more toward the irrational and insensible. When in doubt, we should go with the more adventurous option. We should default to the choices that make our hearts beat faster and our palms sweat, that jolt us out of our comfort zone, that scare and stretch and humble us and keep us on the edge where life is truly alive.
Here’s a simple way to do it to keep our chicken-hearted amygdala from overheating and flipping us into fight, flight, or freeze mode: When stepping into unknown territory, recontextualize it from taking a risk to performing an experiment.
It’s a fundamental mind shift that eases our fear and boosts our courage. An experiment isn’t crazy; it’s scientific. It’s a test to see what works and what doesn’t work.
It’s an implicit recognition that we can always change things through the power of choice. If that job doesn’t pan out, we can always get a new one. If that business fails, it’s not the end of the world.
Yes, I’m aware that the consequences of big choices are real and can be extremely painful, and they can involve other people. Yes, there’s wisdom in considering the consequences.
But never forget this: We’re here to learn and to grow, and there’s no other way.
In an experiment, there’s no failure; there’s only learning. If circumstances disprove our initial hypothesis, we move on to the next experiment with more knowledge. When we crash and burn, we sift through the ashes for the gold nuggets of insight.
And never do we forget that the greatest discoveries are usually accidental — and those providential accidents are never revealed if we’re not experimenting consistently.
As life scientists, we’re constantly analyzing the results of our experiments. The goal is to get more of what we want and less of what we don’t want.
I’m living my Authentic Purpose and ideal life today only because I’ve experimented time and time again over the past fifteen years. I’ve started business after business, project after project. Some have failed dismally. Others have succeeded. All of them have taught me critical things about myself — what I like and dislike, what I’m good at and where I falter — and about life that could not have been learned any other way.
The more we experiment, the faster we get to our ideal life. Those who are unwilling to perform bold experiments never make great discoveries. And the greatest discovery of all is our unrecognized, untapped, undeveloped potential that would astound us if it were realized.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr. said,
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
And now we can add another word to that quote to make it as practical as it is inspirational: experiment.