Have you heard of the psychological concept of ‘Growth Mindset’ vs ‘Fixed Mindset’?
It's not the same as ‘Open’ vs ‘Closed-Mindedness’.
I've always been an open-minded, tolerant, outgoing person. I've lived and worked in 4 countries, so I quickly feel at home in new places and am used to interacting with people from different backgrounds and viewpoints.
Yet, for most of my adult life, I had a Fixed Mindset.
This means that I believed my skills and level of intelligence were fixed. If I wasn't good at something, I'd never be good at it. Sure, I had my strengths and talents, but overall, I'd have to work with what I had.
The way we think about our intellect and talents not only affects the way we feel, but it can also affect what we achieve, whether we stick to new habits, or if we will go on to develop new skills.
This belief has shaped me for many years, holding me back from sharing ideas, writing online and trying out new things for fear of embarrassment or disappointment.
So, what changed?
The magic formula of:
I started seeing and hearing how everyone, even those I look up to, struggles with insecurity. How to improve, you have to be okay with looking foolish at the start. How most 'overnight successes' had years of trial and error, failures and rejections.
I learned about the concept of neuroplasticity, once thought impossible, and now a well-known and scientifically proven fact. How the feelings of frustration when learning a new skill are a neurological and vital part of the learning process — not a sign that you can't do it.
The brain is a dynamic system and is constantly adjusting its circuitry.
Nothing is fixed.
I basically read, listened and wrote myself into a Growth Mindset, where I now firmly believe I can develop my intelligence and talents over time.
Get Over Your Fear of Embarrassment
In December 2021, I picked up a book called How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by cartoonist Scott Adams.
Scott has a very casual approach to failure and making mistakes (and he made many!).
He tried the weirdest and most random stuff: a meditation guide, multiple computer games, a velcro rosin bag (?), a psychic practice program, several restaurants, a gifts guide website, a scheduling app and a grocery delivery service. Most of it bombed and cost him tons of time and money.
He says the critical mindset shift to make is 'to develop a lack of fear of embarrassment':
This is what will allow you to be proactive. It’s what makes you take on challenges others write off as too risky. It’s what makes you take the first step before knowing what the second step is. If you can’t handle the risk of embarrassment, rejection, and failure, you need to learn how.
I was inspired to make 2022 my Year of Creative Experiments.
1 New Experiment Every Month
It'd be very easy to overthink and overcomplicate this whole thing, coming up with all kinds of rules and goals.
So intentionally, there are no rules and no goals. Zero expectations.
Every month, I pick a random idea. This can be anything, as long as it is about learning something new, feeling uncomfortable, and sharing it online.
The people who have the ability to fail in public under their own names actually gain a lot of power. — Naval Ravikant
H1 2022 Update
First edition of my bi-weekly Stretch Newsletter
I had been 'planning' to start a newsletter for a while, but I kept putting it off. "I need a name", "I need a niche", "I need to get better at writing first",…
My first experiment was obvious: just start the damn thing. Pick any name, and figure out the format and structure as you go. No one cares if you change the name in the future.
Current status: at 13 editions, with +450 subscribers! Check out all editions here.
Launch of my first Gumroad digital product: a free writing guide
Since I started writing online, I've met so many people creating all kinds of interesting stuff, and publicly sharing what they know. I was puzzled about how they do that. Who gave them permission? Where do they get the confidence?
It slowly started to sink in.
You don't need anyone's permission!
We live in an age where anyone with an internet connection can reach millions of people with one click.
And I don't need to be an 'expert' to share what I know. There are people just a couple of steps behind me on their writing journey who will benefit from what I have learned.
Huge mindset shift.
So, I created a Notion guide on building a sustainable and consistent writing habit.
I then put it on Gumroad for free. Gumroad is an e-commerce platform where people sell digital products (ebooks, templates, tutorials, apps, etc.), making it very easy to earn your first dollar online.
Even though it was free, a few people paid for it, which is great!
Full engagement in 5-week writing course Write of Passage
March was more of a 'mindset' Experiment. I signed up for an intense 5-week writing course and wanted to challenge myself to engage with the course and the community fully.
- Joining all the mentor sessions in my time zone
- Speaking up in the main room
- Actively engaging in the breakout rooms, sharing what I'm thinking
- Giving detailed feedback & following up
- Getting on 1–1 calls
To some people, this might sound easy and obvious. Not to me. I've done too many courses over the past 2 years where I dutifully joined the sessions and delivered the assignments but did not make 1 single connection that lasted until after the course — or didn't even finish the entire course because I lost interest.
If I don't turn these bullet points into little checkboxes, it's too easy to convince myself it's not that important. That I'm too tired to keep my camera on and share what I'm thinking with the group. That it's okay to leave the session midway if I feel shy about the breakout exercise.
Current status: Write of Passage was a transformative experience for me. We still organize regular calls with a few people from the group. I've even met some of them in person in London!
If you're interested in taking Write of Passage, I wrote a short review here.
30-Days-Tweet + CopyThat Challenge
I want to become much, much better at online writing (and I now believe that I can!).
Copywriting is an important part of that. Compelling, punchy, concise copy.
It's a skill you can learn, and one of the old-school ways to do it is through Copywork.
Copywork is an old practice where you copy other people's writing by hand to improve your own writing.
Word for word. Commas and periods included.
I was sceptical at first, but I have to admit I'm looking at words differently. There's something about taking the time to closely read every word and how the sentences are structured. It's painstakingly boring, but that's probably why it works.
I also tried to be more consistent on Twitter, tweeting and engaging daily. That was tough. I wasn't able to do it every day, but I got more into the habit of using Twitter as a way to meet new people.
Current status: I've lost the habit of doing regular copywriting but will definitely pick this back up. Twitter is going well. I've gone from 634 followers in April to 2,700 followers today.
Notion Minimalist Task Manager + my first Loom tutorial
The May Experiment was again about creating a Notion template, recording a Loom tutorial and sharing it on Gumroad.
The intention was to systemize a solution I created for a problem I was experiencing: how to stay on top of endless to-dos and admin tasks.
For the past 2 years, my system has been a simple Notion database based on the Getting Things Done productivity system. You can read all the details on the Gumroad page and check out the template if interested.
The Loom tutorial was about recording myself on camera while talking through the tutorial and posting that online. I had never done that before, and the feelings of cringe were intense. But I'm glad I did it.
Self-desensitization to embarrassment one Loom tutorial at a time!
Current status: auwtch. Not going to get rich from this one anytime soon.
Better Ideas Challenge by Jakob Greenfeld (+ Twitter giveaway)
Jakob Greenfeld is one of my favourite people to follow on Twitter. He's prolific in building & writing online, so there's much to learn from him when it comes to creativity & ideation.
He distilled everything he's learned in 15 ultra-actionable lessons — sharing resources, frameworks, prompts & existing biz ideas to research.
So, for 15 days in a row, every morning for 20 minutes, I wrote a bunch of random ideas down — shushing the ever-present inner critic.
I can’t say I’ve found the next billion $$$ idea, but this exercise showed me once again how coming up with good ideas is not just for 'creative' people. More than anything, you need to trust your brain and let it do its thing. It's also a skill you can learn; with frameworks & mental models, you can study & practice.
The Twitter giveaway was a small addition to my experiment. I've been connecting with Jakob on Twitter, and when I told him I’d sign up for his Challenge, he was so kind to send me a discount code. I wanted to support his work, so I decided to buy my own ticket and use his discount code for a ‘giveaway’ on Twitter.
Another humbling experience as only 2 people responded to the Tweet — haha. I thought people liked free stuff?!
4 Key Realizations So Far
Embarrassment is a sharp pain, but it dissipates very quickly. Don’t hold back from trying, saying or doing anything just to avoid the pain. You won't believe this until you've experienced it a few times for yourself.
Our minds are lightning quick in coming up with reasons why we shouldn't do or try something. It's trying to keep us safe from rejection and failure, but in doing so, it's holding us back from learning and improving. My commitment to these monthly experiments has been instrumental in pushing things over the line. Without it, I would have 100% talked myself out of sharing online.
Treating things as an experiment is a helpful mental cheat code for when it does fail. You feel less attached to the results because it was an experiment to begin with. If it works — great. If it doesn’t, no problem. You were just having fun anyway. My May Experiment was a failure by all accounts — 80 views and 2 downloads. The Twitter giveaway was so bad; it’s funny. Whatever!
The best self-development work you can do is learning to love and value your brain. Love your ideas. Love how you think. Not in an arrogant way. It's not about thinking your ideas are better than anyone else's. You just want to be proud of how your mind works and how your ideas and experiences uniquely intersect. Trust that if your brain finds an idea useful and worth sharing, others will find it interesting too. Completely let your guard down. That’s when the most interesting stuff comes out.
Okay, people, I'm taking this thing to a whole new level.
For my July Experiment, I signed up for a copywriting course by Shaan Puri, one of my favourite online writers — not necessarily because of what he writes about, but how he writes.
And then… The Experiment of a Lifetime:
I'm in the last 3 weeks of my notice period at work. I've quit my job and am going to make the rest of the year one Big Hairy Audacious Experiment.
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