Only Scientists Are Successful

I’ve touted the importance of awareness and curiosity before, and I stand my belief that without those two traits, your chance of success is basically at the lottery level.  Every successful person I know possesses these traits in abundance.  But, the most successful people I know take these one step further: they test things.  They keep their eyes out for new or interesting things, they investigate them when they appear, and then they test them to see how they actually work, and how those new or interesting things can be applied to their particular field of expertise.  At the most basic level, they are scientists.

The scientific method might come naturally to some people.  For others, maybe it takes a grade school science class to kick in, but it’s exceedingly simple.  I’ll let Oxford explain: “a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”  In other words, observe, guess, test, record, guess again, test, record, repeat until you have a handle on what’s actually going on.

So simple, and yet most people don’t do this.  People buy crystals to make their plants grow bigger, or propellers to make their cars get better mileage, but never actually test this stuff to see if it works.  What’s most entertaining is the fact that people actually get angry if you ask them if they’ve tested their magic crystals.  Like by putting two pots next to each other and see if the one with the crystal does better.  Blasphemy, I know, but this thinking seems to escape a lot of people.  Hell, Tim Ferriss made a career (well, a second career anyway) out of simply testing his own body, and was so wildly successful precisely because almost nobody else does this.

Don’t be these crazy people.  In anything you do.  Don’t assume you’re nutrition is fine because you feel ok.  Test, i.e. actually document, how a change in your diet affects you. Don’t assume that the conventional way to do something is the best way to do it.  Be a scientist.  Test it.  Record your results.  The world will be a better place for it, and you’ll be a hell of a lot more successful, no matter what field you’re in.

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5 Responses to Only Scientists Are Successful

  1. it’s hard to repeatably measure subjective changes like “how do you feel” after eating only chocolate or paleo for a meal, and this is compounded by the fact that only extremely logical and supposedly emotionally disconnected people are willing to live their lives like a science experiment. there’s no de-facto system for recording important things like how much energy you have, how productive you think you are, how stressed you feel, etc.

    “record your results” – what do you actually record? how do you communicate your data to others?

    • AJ Kessler says:

      It’s not terribly hard to record subjective changes like “how do you feel” each day, or after each meal. Just write it down. Notebook, spreadsheet, whatever. Your data isn’t going to be robust enough for publication, but that’s obviously not the point. Anybody who has ever tried to figure out what is causing their allergic reaction will tell you that such measurement is not only doable, but very helpful.

      Yes, it takes some discipline to do, but it’s not a “fact that only extremely logical and supposedly emotionally disconnected people” can do it. Maybe I’m both of those things, but whatever I’m trying to track generally just gets a line entry on my time tracking template that I keep in an excel spreadsheet. Takes me minutes per day.

      Say you wanted to track how your new paleo diet makes you feel (or energy level, or allergic reaction, or whatever). My record keeping might look something like:
      (1) Morning: [Food] – [how did I feel]
      (2) Midday: [Food] – [how did I feel]
      (3) Evening: [Food] – [how did I feel]

      Again, tracking one thing like this takes literally seconds per day to do, and can provide you with data that could be very useful, depending on your goals.

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