Life’s an Experiment


"All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s amazing how much the metaphors we use can be enabling or disabling. 

For example, I used to think "in life there are no second chances" or "you never get a second chance at first impressions." 

Once I adopted, "life’s an experiment", it was much more enabling. 

It means, changing from getting everything right up front to boxing my risks, trying more, and learning and adapting as I go.

Test Your Results

My manager is very much into experiments around impact and improvement. 

He’s got a research background, but he’s into applied research. 

That works great for me because I’m a fan of learning what works over theorizing endless possibilities. 

It’s about testing your assumptions.  It’s about testing your results.

Test Your Metaphors

For me, the keys to metaphors are knowing which ones I use, and which ones are limiting. 

I always need to ask, what’s the most enabling metaphor for the situation I’m in. 

What will make me more resourceful? 

For example, in a group like patterns & practices, experimenting and continuous improvement come with the job.

Find Your Best Metaphors

I’ll have more to say on metaphors another day, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with this:

โ€ฆ do you know your 3 most enabling metaphors?

… do you know your 3 most limiting? 

Hint – limits and opportunities are in the eye of the beholder. 

Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.

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Photo by hashmil


  1. It’s always best to tell yourself “I can, I can” and if things are not working one way, go at it from a different angle. Staying positive is a key to success. And being kind to yourself.

  2. Hi JD,

    I’ve never asked myself which my 3 most enabling and most limiting metaphors are. Great question. I’m thinking about this right now and won’t leave this comment until I’m done. Here goes – they’re not exactly metaphors, just sayings:

    My 3 most enabling:

    1) You never know until you try.
    2) There must be a better way.
    3) Whatever happens, I will survive.

    My 3 most limiting:

    1) What’s the worst case scenario?
    2) I love my life just as it is.
    3) It’s too much work! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I’ve never really thought about how metaphors enable or limit me, but you are right.

    My most limiting is:
    1. I’ll try when I feel better.

    1. A dollar save is a dollar earned.

    Thanks for the fresh perspective.

  4. What can I say, JD…? Oh, Got it! – “Take Your Life For A Test Drive”


    No, it is not driving yourself into a wall, but gently moving out of a parking lot and keep moving forward switching the gears. You like shift stick, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Ooooh — how I love the picture you paint of theorizing versus testing. Your disdain for assumptions is what drew me to your blog in the first place. Now you’ve added a second reason to come back: applying thought.

    My own metaphor? Hmmm… I see metaphor wherever I look. A simple life snapshot, moving or still, tells a larger truth. I write the stories. Or paint them. I look for those patterns you speak of, patterns of lights and patches of shade, areas of focus versus peripheral blur.(See what’s important to look at and allow the rest to support, as in any effective endeavor.)

    More to think about now… and then translate to DO. Thanks.

  6. @ Jannie

    Well put. Where there’s a will there’s a way, if you’re willing to flex or bend here and there.

    @ Daphne

    Sayings can work just as well as metaphors if you have an emotional connection to them. Thanks for sharing. I think we have some in common. Along the lines of a saying, one of my most enabling is “what would XYZ do?”, where XYZ is any of my favorite heroes.

    @ Karl

    I’ll try when I feel better is a great example. I’ve limited myself so many times waiting until I felt better or got inspired or whatever. It changed my game once I realized that inspiration often follows action and that motion creates emotion.

    @ Alik

    Beautiful. What’s with the gentle stuff? I say go for it. Just jump out before you hit the wall. As Danika Patrick would say, “bump up against that feeling.”

    @ Barb

    Well thank you! It’s my little mantras that help me surprise myself. Anything from “test your results” to “get back on your horse.” I think it was Young Guns II that stuck … you have to test yourself, you’re either growing or dying, there’s no in-between.

    I like the way you put it (patterns of light, patterns of shade, areas of focus) and translating to DO!

    @ Laurie

    Feel the fear and do it anyway is such a great way to get the essence of courage.

    There is no time like the present. That reminds me how I used to twist it into why do today, what I can put off until tomorrow ๐Ÿ˜‰

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