Why Experimenting is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Career – And Your Life

Why Experimenting is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Career - And Your Life

A note from Tom: the following is a guest post written by Alexis Grant of The Traveling Writer.

Whilst I am not currently accepting guest posts as a general rule, Alexis has produced the kind of article here that I couldn’t not feature on Leaving Work Behind. She covers a topic that has been on my mind for many weeks, and one that I was planning on covering at some point myself in the future. Now there is no need to, as Alexis has done a wonderful job.

Take it away Alexis!

When it comes to earning a paycheck, we often stick with what we know. We stick with what we know works, because we can’t afford to not have money coming in every month.

That’s one of the reasons so few people make the transition to working for themselves - because they’re not sure it will work. Instead, we stick to what we know, which, unfortunately, is usually the status quo (and often a full-time job working for someone else).

But what if we gave ourselves permission to experiment? What if we pushed ourselves outside our comfort zone?

What if we tried little experiments first, ones that wouldn’t upset the paycheck, experiments like building a side gig to pad your bank account or learning a new skill to make yourself more marketable? Once those small experiments start to work, you’ll feel more comfortable expanding into bigger experiments – ones that have the potential to take your career to new levels.

Because as I’ve learned over the last year – as I’ve transitioned from my day job to working for myself - experimenting is vital to making a living doing what you love. Experimenting has allowed me to figure out that I love creating digital guides and courses – and that I can actually make money selling them. If you don’t give yourself room to experiment, you’ll never discover the true gems of your career.

Here’s why experimenting is the best thing you can do for yourself, no matter where you are in your career.

1. It Helps You Grow

Sometimes my business experiments work out well, and sometimes they don’t. When they succeed, I see an obvious benefit: I figure out what works, and often that means discovering a new revenue stream.

But even when the experiment doesn’t succeed (for me, that usually means an eBook tanks), it’s worth it because I learned something. I learned something that will help me move forward and succeed next time.

Learning is key to feeling satisfied in your career, whether you’re working for yourself or for someone else. And the best way to learn is by experimenting.

2. It’s a Challenge

Let’s face it: doing the same thing every day gets boring, even if you’re your own boss. The most effective way to get out of a rut – or to make sure you never fall into that rut to begin with – is by trying something new.

After all, that’s why experimenting really is, right? Trying something new. And calling it an “experiment” means you’re not obligated to keep doing it if you don’t want to.

3. Smart Risks Could Mean Big Rewards

Experimenting is a risk. It puts you in the position to fail, which is why most people avoid it at all costs.

But taking smart risks, calculated risks, also sets you up to create something great – something that’s far better than what you’re doing now. You could find a job you love. Or realize you can make a living selling that widget you’ve dreamed of creating. Or, if your dream is to work your way up your company ladder, maybe your experiment will make you look like a hero to your boss or client.

If you stick with the status quo and never step outside your comfort zone, if you don’t take those smart risks, the chances of that kind of success being within reach is slim-to-none. Experimenting is what makes it possible.

4. You Could Discover Your True Passion

Guess what taking smart risks could lead to? You could reach your true potential. You could discover a career you’re truly passionate about, one that helps you learn and grow. You could find a way to earn your next paycheck that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

It is possible to make a living doing what you love, so long as you’re open to the experiments that will get you there.

And if you love what you do, you’re even more likely to reach that next level of success, right?

Alexis Grant is an entrepreneurial writer, digital strategist and author of How I Surpassed My Day Job Income in Just 6 Months of Self-Employment. She also offers a free newsletter.

Creative Commons image courtesy of zhouxuan12345678

Comments

  1. Kaya Ismail says

    I completely agree!

    Too often I come across people who simply don’t trust themselves enough to begin freelancing, blogging, etc.

    Of course, some have families to feed, so abandoning a regular income is more than risky.

    However I often talk to people my age (Young enough not to have a wife and kids at least), who can’t fathom the prospect of working for themselves. They won’t even bother to learn a new skill in order to one day achieve self-determination. They would rather be a cog in someone else’s machine. It’s a pity.

    …Ah well. Good post!

    • says

      Thanks, Kaya! It’s true, it CAN be hard to picture if you’ve been working for someone else for years. But that’s all the more reason to consider it, right? :)

    • says

      I’m with you on this Kaya – pretty much all of my friends are lacking in entrepreneurial spirit. They’re happy (or resigned) to spending the rest of their lives working for someone else.

      Whilst I would be delighted to help any of them, I would never try to enforce what I think is the right course of action on them. It’s up to them to make the decision, ultimately.

    • says

      Kaya – agree completely – it’s so sad. When people think about it but don’t do it for whatever reason, it’s sad. But when people complain about their jobs / being broke / unfulfilled / unhappy but haven’t even THOUGHT about an alternative, that’s sadder. And when they are 100% uninterested and closed minded when you try to introduce the idea to them, thats even worse…

  2. says

    Per usual, great writing Alexis!

    100% agree. And have the evidence to prove leading a life of experiments works!!

    Three years ago, when I wanted to cross off “dance a hip-hop routine on stage in front of a paying audience” from my Life To Do List, I knew I had to try something a bit unusual in order to make that happen as I’m a horrible dancer, and who would pay to see me dance badly by myself?

    So I took my love of helping others challenge themselves and make connections, and created “Dance Experiment.” People who were bad dancers, sign up solo to rehearse 4 hours a week for 3 months, and then perform in front of 350.

    It was a HUGE hit, bigger than I could’ve ever imagined, and has since grown to be called Fear Experiment:

    - 70+ people have participated as non-dancers or non-improvisers over three years
    - we’ve sold out two shows with 700+ people in attendance at the Park West, one of Chicago’s most revered theaters
    - I have a wait list each round
    - I’ve added two new art forms (a capella singing and stepping)
    - it’s become a mainstay my business, Mac ‘n Cheese Productions
    - participants have formed lasting, genuine relationships and continue to be friends/travelmates/roommates/significant others post-show

    Viva the experiment!!

    http://macncheeseproductions.com/fear-experiment

  3. says

    Awesome post. I honestly feel bad for people who just live their lives and take no chances and don’t do anything differently from what they’re “supposed to” because that’s all that they know. More people need to read this post ;)

    Thomas

  4. says

    It is hard to make the jump. I think people underestimate how hard it is to actually do it. On the other hand, that financial security you have with a job? As we saw with recent problems with a UK bank’s computer system, the majority of people live hand to mouth – they rely on being paid on time every month. Do you really have financial security with your pay check every month from an employer if you don’t have back up savings?

    Seriously think about making the move. Being self-employed really isn’t for everyone. You need to be able to self-motivate and take the responsibility on your own shoulders. That may not be for you. Don’t let only fear stop you though. You can always go back to employment with wider experience of the world.

    If Tom doesn’t mind, I’d like to reach out and say I’m very happy to chat with anyone in the UK who wants to make the jump and is worried about how the accounts and financial angles work out.

    • says

      It’s too late, you’ve said it now ;)

      Seriously though, you make some good points – the ability to self-motivate is absolutely key. But if you don’t try it, you’ll never know…

  5. says

    What a great topic. Too many get stuck in a rut out of fear. It is hard doing new things but without some challenges there cannot be rewards either. Some get jealous of those that have suceeded but are unwilling to try to do what it may take to reach that success. And of course many are afraid of failure, which can be another lesson on the way to success.

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