Embrace low-stakes experiments

This might be one of those posts that really only have an audience of one, as in nobody besides me needs to hear it. But just in case.

Sometimes, as I’m going about my day attempting to make ongoing improvements in my living environment, work processes, etc., I will talk myself out of trying some little thing that pops into my mind. The idea will occur to me, and immediately I’ll say to myself, “Oh, that probably won’t work.” And I allow inertia to prevail.

Today I caught myself doing that with the placement of the laundry drying rack that I have in the kitchen for hang-drying dishtowels, rags, etc.

And I had to remind myself, it’s an effing dryer-rack for gosh sake, just try this idea! It’ll take two seconds!

Maybe the new placement will help with air circulation and space-saving, or maybe not. I like it so far though.

Of course in addition to doing this with tiny things, we human beings also do it with large things. Oh, that business idea will never work. That new approach to talking to my neighbor isn’t going to help. Writing this letter to the newspaper or to my elected officials isn’t going to make a difference. Our efforts to normalize low-footprint lifestyle aren’t going to help move the needle, so what’s the point. Etc. etc. etc. and on we go.

I suggest we all do tiny, low-stakes experiments as often as possible. Not only do they cost little or nothing, but they can result in an improvement in our living environment and everyday life. And furthermore, they serve as a useful on-ramp to the higher-stakes experiments we all need to be tackling.

Thanks to tiny, low-stakes experiments that ramped up, I have a nice little bamboo trellis fence. First it was just a bunch of bamboo poles that I gathered from curbside where someone thinning out their bamboo patch had left them. Then I cut them to desired length; sorted them based roughly on circumference. Then I tied two poles together, experimenting with different types of string and ways of tying till I got it right. Building on that experimental beginning, a whole rustic fence is emerging.

And also thanks to tiny, low-stakes experiments I have a pretty little shade/privacy structure, made of palm fronds and bamboo pieces, outside my office/bedroom door. And lots of other things: deepened or renewed friendships; neighbors who know each other’s names; a growing number of wildflower yards in the neighborhood; five years worth of blog posts and counting; a book; working knowledge of multiple foreign languages; the ability to quiet my mind at will. None of this, and a lot more besides, would have happened if I hadn’t been willing to be a little bit vulnerable and expend a little bit of effort at some point.

It’s important that we exercise this muscle, because as I said, there are much bigger-stakes things we need to tackle, and meanwhile the naysayers are exercising their naysayer muscle 24-7. I believe that in their hearts the naysayers are feeling a lot of pain, and by refusing to be naysayers to our own selves, we can be in a better position to ease those people’s suffering as well.

By the way, there’s actually no such thing as an experiment that doesn’t work, because there is always a yield. Experience and data are valuable yields in themselves.

PS. One person’s low-stakes experiment might be another person’s high-stakes experiment, and vice versa. If something is big for you, it’s big, and don’t let anyone make light of your efforts.

Further exploration:

• “Living-space experiments” (This is a post from way back in 2018, the early days of this blog. It’s fun to notice how much my setup has changed since then. But it worked great back then, and what I have now works great now.)