Learning from Failure: September Life Experiments

We’re all familiar with the Edison quote about inventing the lightbulb. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Most experiments are doomed to failure, but the real shame is in failing to learn from these shortfalls.

For the month of September, I tried two (and a half) experiments, each was ultimately doomed to failure because I either didn’t properly prepare/plan for the experiment, and I wasn’t able to successfully build the habits I needed to keep going.

Life Experiment 1: Going Plastic Free.

This shouldn’t have been that hard, I even gave myself a series of “outs” to try to increase my chances of success; I was allowed to use existing products I had in my house, I was allowed to buy raw meat (and anything else truly germ or bacteria laden) in plastic, and I was allowed to buy plastic where there was no alternative – no unwrapping the cucumbers and leaving the plastic sleeves in the middle of the store.

My intention was to make the small micro shifts, to use reusable bags, to avoid single use items like cutlery and straws, and to make smart purchases of items such as clothing (as much fast fashion is shedding micro plastics into the world).

What I managed to do: I continued to use my reusable shopping bags from Longo’s… and that’s about it, the first couple of weeks I also remembered not to put loose veggies into the flimsy impossible to recycle produce bags at the market.

Where I failed: I ordered skip the dishes several times and each time my food was delivered in some version of a single use (or low repeat use) container, I purchased an adorable LBD from Reitman’s for $16 that I’m sure isn’t full of cottony goodness, and I repeatedly failed at the grocery store to remember not to put my produce into single use bags.

What I’ve Learned, and How I’ll do Better: First, I didn’t properly prepare for this challenge, I have reusable produce bags (although I wasn’t able to locate them, and thus couldn’t simply keep them with my reusable shopping bags; and I didn’t implement a mechanism to keep myself accountable. I’m going to bite the bullet and just order a whack of reusable bags off of Amazon and hope they don’t come packaged in too much plastic; and I’m going to try to order less delivery (although I reduced my delivery bill by about 25% from last month).

Life Experiment 2: The 5am Challenge.

This challenge started off rocky and just never really recovered, I flew home from Jamaica and landed late on the evening of August 31, 2019 which meant that starting the challenge on September first would have resulted in going into September with a sleep deficit.

My intention was to do a 1-hour power hour first thing each morning; this was to include, 20 minutes of Exercise, 20 Minutes of Reflection, and 20 Minutes Growth. I didn’t even last a week!

What I managed to do: 2 days of 20 Minutes of Exercise – climbing the stairs in my house (because what else do you do at 5am?), 20 Minutes of Journaling, and 20 Minutes of reading (non-fiction of course). I also did a third and fourth day where I skipped the Exercise portion – because no willpower without accountability.

Where I failed: Basically, September 1 and 6-30 (that’s most of the days) I did zilch, zippo, zero. Also, I managed to get up at 5am only on September 2-5 before I just COULD NOT make myself get up that early.

What I’ve Learned, and Why I Won’t Do This Again: First, I was reminded that I need to build in accountability, if I’m going to take on a challenge like this I need a buddy, or at the very least a mechanism to (slightly) embarrass myself online in real time. I also discovered very quickly that a 5am wake up call doesn’t work with my current schedule, I’m at the office from 9am-7pm most days, and when I get up at 5am, my “crash” happens at 5pm instead of 7pm when its time to go home. I also failed to properly prepare I didn’t come up with a variety of workouts to try, I didn’t find any mediation apps to vary my “reflection” minutes, and I didn’t plan any “growth” activities beyond tackling my reading pile.

Life Experiment 2 ½: Walk to Work Wednesdays.

I did this precisely once, on September 4, 2019, and I didn’t even make the round trip. The walk was fine, except again I didn’t plan ahead. If I had taken a change of clothes to work on Tuesday and hung it in my office, if I hadn’t brought my computer home, and if I had taken extra Water (in refillable bottles) to work the day before; I probably wouldn’t have cut of the circulation to my arms with my uber heavy backpack. I also didn’t plan to leave work early enough, which meant I had to call for a ride home.

I hope to walk to work again but I need to do a lot more planning to make it a success. The less I need to actually carry to and from the office on that day, the more likely I am to comfortably make the round trip.

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