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Juan David's Newsletter - August 7th, 2022
Trial and Error: The Absolute Advantage of Humans
We all think we need good ideas in order to have good projects or good companies. Heck, we even think it’s not about ideas, it’s about execution. Ideas and ideas and ideas.
But what about the absolute advantage humans have? We’ll get there in a minute.
What if I tell you all of that is horseshit? To clean ourselves up, we must do two things: 1) pick it up and throw it out, and 2) never read a business book or take a business class.
Now that we’re clean, we can start talking.
You’ve heard of trial and error but I don’t think you have heard of how great humans are at trial and error. Our ability at trial and error is what makes us human and what makes some humans, superhumans.
Think of people like Edison who said, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I've successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
This is exactly what I’m talking about. So why the hell do people think they need a great idea that will work instantly? 99% of the time, it won’t be like this and that’s actually a good thing.
In a way, you are doing things to fail. Fail fast and often and there will be a time when you won’t fail anymore.
This mental misconception stops human flourishing. A couple of days ago, I was talking to a friend and he was telling me that he felt stuck and confused. What I understood he was saying was he was afraid to try something and fail. But this is when I told him, “When you do something and it doesn’t work, you don’t fail. Rather you learn.”
This approach to how to do things is counterintuitive yet this is what humans must be doing to pursue what they love doing, create great companies, and even find personal love.
But this is far from easy. One needs to train oneself to fail. To become insensitive to what other people think and the fear of learning masked with failure.
I’ve been doing this on purpose for years. The first time was when I went to the debate club in high school and didn’t know English. I got up and started debating but I didn’t know any words so I stood up there for the longest two minutes of my life and repeated the same three words. People laughed and laughed. For most people that would have been enough to never come back and hate debate. I kind of did but I kept coming back to prove myself so much that that was probably what led me to give a TEDx talk in front of more than 500 people a couple of years later.
That was only the beginning. I’ve become so good at this that now I crave those experiences. So much so that I signed up to do stand-up comedy in front of 300 people completely unprepared, just to see how well I could do and experience that feeling. Somehow I spoke for 10 minutes and got a few laughs (read the full story here).
You don’t have to be that extreme. It can be as simple as saying “Hi” to people next to you or starting a conversation with people you wouldn’t normally talk to. In college, I love starting conversations with bus drivers. Oftentimes, they possess a level of wisdom you can only get through struggle and hard work. For example, when I talked to George and realized how important automation is, or when we interviewed Charles on The UIUC Talkshow and had one of the most moving and emotional conversations.
Failing and failing. It’s simply another word for knowing that the feeling of being uncomfortable could lead us to what we all want to feel: connection, wonder, and ecstasy.
Once you’ve lost that sensitivity, you can start fully living. Joseph Campbell thought that, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.”
Not just alive but fully alive.
Part of being alive is being ok with starting with bad ideas and trusting your intuition to lead you to where you really want to be. Again, Joseph Campbell would say, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
We get there with trial and error: the absolute advantage humans have.
Therefore if you think you want to start a project, company, or whatever.
You must get started and repeat the trial and error process until you won’t need to anymore.
Your first idea will suck and so will your second and third. But it is only by starting that you can get to the good ones.
This is a fundamental truth of our existence.
And of course, my favorite example of trial and error experimentation is AIRPLANES!
See you next week,
Juan David Campolargo