The Tried-and-True Way is the Right Way

July 09, 2021

If you've ever walked a dog, you've likely observed how curious puppies can be. A simple fifteen-minute walk can turn into an hour-long adventure as the dog stops to investigate every tree, smell various objects, and even taste leaves on the road. Occasionally, the dog might get curious about other items, ranging from discarded tissue paper to rotting fruit. It seems like the dog never tires of trying new things, while I can become indifferent, especially when every tree along the path looks the same.

2021 07 09

This dog's behavior reminds me that the tried-and-true method is often the best approach. How would the dog learn whether something is good or bad if it didn't explore? From a human perspective, attempting to eat everything it encounters seems foolish, as does chasing a passing motorcycle. Yet, for the dog, the world is a playground full of potential adventures. Even a short walk can pose challenges like confrontations with larger, aggressive dogs or, on a lucky day, an opportunity to meet and socialize with other friendly canines.

Adults, however, often lose the enthusiasm for trying new things. We get stuck in our routines, stop learning new skills, and disengage from the world around us. When confronted with questionable information or "fake news," it's crucial to remain skeptical and verify facts. Opt for the path that has been tried, tested, and proven effective.

As I grow older, I find myself increasingly focused on the end result rather than the process. Take dog-walking as an example; it might seem more efficient to finish the walk in fifteen minutes rather than an hour. However, by doing so, we miss the opportunity to slow down, smell the flowers, admire the architecture, and marvel at the natural world. There's much to learn from these slower, more exploratory experiences.

The approach calls for individuals to experiment with and discover truth for themselves. With rapid and inexpensive ways to conduct multiple tests, continuous improvement becomes viable. This principle applies not only to personal life but also in a corporate setting. Employees can be encouraged to suggest innovative ideas that could lead to improvements. Concepts that prove successful according to predetermined criteria can then be integrated into the system.

Achieving success involves continuous experimentation and making innovation a part of the workplace culture. Surprises should be valued for their potential to disrupt and improve, even if they seem problematic in the short term.

When faced with uncertainty, be patient. Invoke your innate curiosity by asking questions. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. There's no other way to grow. When we see a dog eating trash, we should remember our own moments of foolishness and acknowledge that making mistakes is part of the learning process.

One of the best ways to begin experimenting with the world is to identify something you want to learn and make a conscious effort to understand it. Listen to people, observe your surroundings, and maintain a beginner's mindset. As you start to experiment, new opportunities will present themselves.

Stretching beyond your comfort zone will encourage mental experimentation. Many people follow the same routines and stick to a narrow range of learning methods. Stepping outside these boundaries by mimicking examples, conducting tests, and pushing your limits can result in a more comprehensive learning experience tailored to your unique traits and strengths.

Learning is inherently a process of trial and error. Practical application, feedback, and problem-solving are essential for adapting your mental models to the real world. Experiment with various approaches and choose what works best for you.

To get into the right mindset for experimenting, you need to view your skills as improvable and recognize your untapped potentials. Experience is gained even when things don't go as planned.

To truly understand what you want out of life, you need to live it. Thoughtful action, rather than mere contemplation, is the key to discovering your deepest desires, purpose, and joy. Following the tried-and-true path is the best way to this discovery.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn