The Beauty of Trial and Error

May 25, 2013

 “Knowing where you are going will get you somewhere.
But not as fast as trial and error.”

~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Trail and error gets a bad rap.

Trail and error is to success as the hunt-and-peck theory is to keyboard mastery, but why? We think that trial and error is a slower method to getting where we want. We think knowing is the key to success. If I only knew how to make money, if I only knew how to meet women, if I only knew how to play the piano, and we use these excuses as a way to keep us out of action.

Remember all the books you read to learn to ride a bike?

What? You didn’t read any books on riding bikes? You didn’t catch the latest viral blog post on “5 Things You Should Never Do When Learning To Ride A Bike”? How in the world did you become so good at riding a bike without knowing how?

You fell down a lot.

Seems like we’ve unlearned the wisdom that kids are simply born with.

Why then, are there so many books and so many articles helping people get more knowledge? It’s a lot easier than selling trial and error. Which workshop will be more popular, a seminar in a comfortable room on “How to Attract, and Date Beautiful Women in 3 Easy Steps” or a guy who says “meet me at the bar, we’re going to approach 10 women or we can’t go home”.

Now I hear some of you saying “actually dude that second workshop sounds bad-ass!” Look at the books you’ve bought in the last 6 months and the blog posts you’ve read in your Internet history. Now look at your calendar. Look at what you do. Are your actions in line with your words? Are you really using trail and error or are you just thinking about it?

A lot of people think they use trial and error but here’s what it really looks like. Let’s call it the “visualize and compare” method.

Step 1: When presented with a challenge, think about what you would do and create a hypothetical situation.

Step 2: Watch someone else do it or read a book explaining how to do it.

Step 3: Compare your imaginary action with their real, on the court action.

Step 4: Determine that now you know how to do it so you don’t really need to actually go do it.

Stop doing this.

Your imagination is being put to terrible use and you are not growing. In the time you could have been starting new businesses, talking to beautiful women, playing the guitar and writing that book you’ve always wanted, you were visualizing and comparing, all from the safety of your MacBook Pro.

Do I do this too? Hell yeah I do, and it leaves me depressed, sold out and with no actual results. What most people don’t realize is that failing can actually be fun if you let it be. One of the things that always amazes people that are afraid to get rejected is how great they feel after they do. It’s so counter intuitive, but makes sense to me. Anaïs Nin once wrote, life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. She didn’t say, “life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s success”. Show courage, life expands, even if you get rejected.

So what now?

I know you’re afraid. If you’d like to let that fear run your life you can be like the quietly desperate majority. They even have a club, and it meets every week in an online chat room called Comfort Zone.

Or you could have courage.

You could believe in something greater than looking good, failing and falling on your ass. You could be a person who chooses a life of adventure, and not just externally, but a life of internal adventure. That feeling of exhilaration when you venture outside your comfort zone and do what scares you. That feeling when you open up to the world to show people who you really areinstead of the façade you’ve been holding up.

Comfort or challenge.
Idleness or action.
Servitude or independence.
Fear or love.

The choice is yours.


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