We need to experiment more. We need more trial and error.  I started thinking "Well so what are you doing Tim? Are you experimenting with your own life?" And I thought back to one of the times when I’d been happiest - when I was a college student. I think the reason so many people enjoy being college students is think about it, you’re experimenting.  You’re experimenting with everything.  

You’ve got new friends, a new place, new ideas. Maybe you’re experimenting with some things you shouldn’t be experimenting with, but you’re doing all this experimentation and it’s in a safe space. Nothing can really go wrong. And at the end of three years you’ll sit for your exams and you’ll graduate and off you’ll go and get a job. It’s just a wonderful time of life despite the fact that you’ll fail and you’ll screw up.  You’ll embarrass yourself.  You’ll have those moments that make you cringe.  It’s actually tremendously fulfilling.  

I then think about what happened to me the year after college.  I stopped experimenting.  I put on a suit.  I put on a tie.  I got a job in management consulting and I tried to figure out exactly how that job was done and I stopped experimenting.  My world shrank.  I became very conservative and afraid of failure and I think it was probably the worst year of my life.

I think a lot of people have had that experience and we spend much of our adult lives thinking back and harking back to a time when we felt freer to experiment. So I'm not saying you should start smoking dope and get a really terrible haircut and all the things you used to do as a student. But maybe you should recapture some of that willingness to fail a little, to try a few new things and yeah, sometimes it will be embarrassing. But maybe that is not such a bad thing. Maybe it’s worth it.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.