Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: My Life as an Experiment: One Man's Humble Quest to Improve Himself

Pick something you want to accomplish but that's tough to do. Say, lose weight or start a business.

Now, what if instead of attacking your goal head on, you designed an experiment around it. So, you decide you're going to do 3 workouts a week on FitTV and eat 5 servings of veggies a day for a month. Or, you are going to develop a business plan and pitch it to 10 people.

You might lose weight or get that business started, or you might not.

The experiment approach has some interesting benefits: first, it's bounded - you aren't making a life change, just trying something out. The limited time frame means you'll have a better chance of toughing it out. Second, there is no possibility for failure, just the collection of data. You might find that after a month, you weigh more than you started, or that 10 people hate your idea. That's OK. You conducted the experiment, got the data, and can move on. Experiments work best when the data is shared with a community, which means the effort you put in can serve to help others. Finally, experiments make it easy to frame attempts gone horribly wrong in a humorous context, rather than shrinking in failure.

What does all this have to do with A. J. Jacob's My Life as an Experiment? Everything. My Life as an Experiment tracks a variety of tests Jacobs runs from living life through the eyes of a beautiful woman, to mimicking George Washington's life. He's apparently the guru of life experiments.

The book itself is wonderful: Jacobs manages to find the perfect balance between successes and failures in his experiments, gives us plenty of lessons to learn and wraps the whole package in humor. I was concerned that the text would come off as a bit holier-than-though ("Look at me and what *I've* done!) - but that isn't the case at all.

I also think it serves as a good template for designing your own life experiments - a problem solving technique, as you can see above, I think has a lot of value.

Read (or in my case, listen to) the book for the wonderful stories, or use it as a how to guide. Either way, you can't go wrong.

Note: I listened to the Book on CD version, which as a bonus is read by Jacobs himself. I for one found his reading delightful and probably enjoyed it more because of this.

1 comment:

  1. I image the author gives credit to Ben Franklin who wrote extensively about this.