How To Treat Life Like an Experiment
by Erik Kennedy
Art of Manliness
I was quite
scared when I woke up Monday morning. I hadnt set my alarm
the night before, and I didnt know if it was 7 AM, 11 AM,
or somewhere in-between. How late was I for work? To make it worse,
my watches were locked away in a drawer in my desk. All the clocks
in my house had tape or paper covering the time. Even the digital
clock in the corner of my computer screen had been hidden, and all
the settings on my alarm clock had, of course, been cleared.
I walked to
the transit stop and took a bus I still dont know which
one to work. There seemed to be plenty of other commuters,
so maybe I hadnt slept in until noon. Fifteen minutes before
my first meeting, the Outlook meeting alert didnt go off.
I had cancelled all alerts for the next work-week. Fortunately,
a coworker walked by. Hey Erik, Ill be a bit late to
our meeting later on.
okay! I said, relieved for the first time all day. Just
drop by my office whenever. Im not going anywhere. I
sat back in my chair.
This was only
the second morning of my grand experiment.
of the Personal Experiment
I decided it was a worthwhile idea to go without any time-telling
mechanism for an entire week. No clocks, no watches, no alarms.
The idea was born of a conversation with a friend about how much
our wanting to know the time was useful and how much was just an
addiction to some bit of knowledge that didnt help us
something that made us feel better prepared, but didnt make
us any wiser.
to be tackling on a Monday morning, Ill admit. And come the
following Saturday night, I still hadnt had a mind-blowing
epiphany on the matter. I had more or less unreservedly arrived
at the conclusion that knowing the time can be pretty useful, but
isnt always. Useful, I know. But while I laugh about it now,
I dont regret one second of that week.
got a thing for personal experiments. Self-science. In the past
few years, Ive done a week without clocks, a week with only
one meal per day, a week of giving
back to my network, and a stretch of a few months during which
I recorded everything in my life that made me noticeably more happy
or less happy. Ive also kept track of more standard things
at various times how many push-ups I can do, how many carbs
Im eating, or how much money Im spending.
In short, Ive
tried to treat my life as an experiment or, rather, a series
of short experiments. But whether its measuring if clocks
are a needless stressor or figuring out the best weekly push-up
routine, all of this self-experimenting stuff boils down to a few
- Think of
a way in which you might live a better, happier life
- Do that
thing at least for a short time
on what you learned and change your behavior accordingly
rocket science. In fact, it would be a stretch to call it science
at all but its based on the same basic principles:
curiosity, a desire for improvement, and a humility towards finding
the truth, wherever the search might lead. And it utilizes the same
steps of the scientific method as well:
- Ask a question
- Do background
- Test your
hypothesis by doing an experiment
your data and draw a conclusion
In a way, though,
this do-it-yourself experimentation has a leg up on labs and research
papers. We live in a time where you can find studies to back up
anything. Coffee is great for you. Coffee is awful for you. Fat
is bad. Nope, its saturated fat. Just kidding, its carbs.
Actually, meat is bad for you. Nope, youre bad for meat.
In the noisy
commotion of the science-media complex, sometimes the clearest voice
is a simple one-man experiment. I tried two things. I found
one was better. Im going to do that thing until I find something
even better. Those with a background in science and engineering
might balk: a sample size of one isnt valid! How can you base
your life off of something as trivial as a week-long, one-person
My answer is
simple: Im not trying to test cures for cancer here. Treating
life like an experiment is about curiosity and attempting to live
better, not proving beyond any shadow of a doubt the
merits or demerits of any way of life. When I found that not driving
to work drastically increased the chances of me not having a bad
day, Im wasnt trying to legislate anything based on
the conclusion. Im just trying to figure out how I can get
one step closer to better.
Test With Your Experiment
life is one of boundary-pushing and agency over ones environment.
To those ends, you can test almost anything. Here are a few things
that Ive heard about people testing or experimented
The most common thing to experiment with. Give up carbs,
give up snacks, give up all food for a day. A friend of mine ate
nothing but ice cream for 100 hours so theres that
sports Swap training plans. Whats better
long-distance cardio workouts or sprint/interval workouts? How
do you recover from injuries faster?
training How frequently do you lift? Number of reps
and sets? Does your sleep or diet affect your ability?
skills A very large category: golf swings, tennis serves,
baseball pitches, etc. From rock climbing to unicycle riding,
whens the last time you put some variation and reflection
in your training?
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© 2012 The Art of Manliness