Nomadic Neill*»* Trial and Error Outperforms Planning
In this video Nassim Taleb summarizes a big idea into a great quote: “Tinkering, trial and error outperforms design”. I have a variation that I think is true as well: “Trial and error outperforms (too much) planning”. What is too much? Well a lot less than I used to think.
This idea has been a big influence on my life over the past couple of years. I used to operate under the assumption that I had to gather a certain amount of information before I could take optimal action. No doubt this is something I learned in school. Like many things taught in the class-room it’s only of limited use outside of it.
Since the amount of knowledge I could gather about any subject was very large it would delay any action I took. And then I would always have an underlying uncertainty and anxiety about what I was doing, because I always feared that I might be missing some vital piece of information that could be inhibiting my progress.
But I’ve come to realize that trial and error is very often the most efficient way to progress. When I’m learning some new skill or embarking on a project I now accept that I will never reach that magic point in time where I am fully prepared with all the knowledge I need for the upcoming journey. This means I get started much sooner than before. I realize that it sounds like the old maxim “Ready, Fire, Aim”, but I think there’s more to it than that.
Moving forward as soon as possible ensures that you learn the things you need for your particular situation much sooner. Whenever you get stuck you seek out a solution and get moving again rather than waste too much time reading about other people’s journey. This helps you avoid falling into the trap of worrying about all the different “What if?” scenarios that will probably never happen.
Here’s an example of how this thinking applies in the real world. A friend of mine was asking for advice on how to make money online so I told him to invest his time in building assets that he could get repeat business from (e-mail subscribers, his own products etc.). But he wanted more specific advice and rather just regurgitate clichés I told him that he has to accept that no matter how much advice I gave him his first efforts will be failures (failure = feedback of course), and that he should just accept that.
He also has to accept that his situation is unique. He has unique skills, beliefs and resources which means that his journey to success will be different from mine and that of anyone else. That doesn’t mean he can’t learn from other people but that his time is better spent moving forward and looking for help when he gets stuck rather than looking for information to prevent ‘What if?’ scenarios.
Finally he has to go through the ‘process’ as many times as possible in order to learn something each time. The ‘process’ in the case of internet marketing is identifying a niche, setting up a website, driving traffic, building a list and creating and selling a product.
Going through the ‘process’ is something which helps your grow and improve much faster than too much preparations and study. So if there is some project that you want to start be assured that constantly moving forward with trial, error and tinkering as you go along is the best way to reach your goals.