Scott H Young

Rapid Prototype Your Life


Rapid prototyping, and comparable methods in the software industry, aim to create a prototypes of a product before investing heavily in the final design. This allows for mistakes to be caught early, and for resources to be spared. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how the process of rapid prototyping can be applied to life itself.

Rapid prototyping means you test out, smaller, cheaper and faster elements of your goals before pursuing them for the long-haul. Here’s just a few examples:

  • World Travel – Want to see the world, but don’t have any money? Instead of just fantasizing about the journey, try a smaller version of the trip itself. Go on a smaller adventure that is within your budget and see how the experience of travel compares with your images.
  • Jobs – If you’re a student, new to a career, go interview some people who are working in your chosen field. Get an idea of what the jobs will be like before you commit to working them.
  • Business - Test out a smaller version of your business model before scaling up production and costs. Tim Ferriss has great examples of this in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek where he tests out potential product ideas through their Google AdWords clickthrough rate.

Experience Trumps Planning

Actually experiencing an idea will always be more beneficial than just planning it. I learned a lot more about writing a book through actually making one than I could have from just planning to make one. Even a scaled down representation of your final idea is worth far more than a detailed plan. Writing a five page e-book will still probably teach you more about writing than the planning for a 900 page book.

Despite this, it seems most people get caught up in the waterfall model of working towards their goals. Planning everything in advance, they focus on questions of strategy (e.g. “How will I accomplish this.”) and miss out questions of experience (e.g. “What will it be like when I accomplish this.”)

The unfortunate truth is that expectation never matches up with experience. Your vision of a new situation is so simplified that it can’t possibly grasp what it will actually be like to live your goal. This can mean you work very hard to reach a goal that you later decide you don’t want.

Scaling Your Ideal Life to Fit in Today

What elements of your ideal life can you scale down and fit in your daily life. If your ideal life doesn’t look anything like your current life, you probably won’t ever get there. Take down your ambitions and goals and scale them so that they are possible in your current life. This could mean:

  • If you want to be a professional speaker, join an organization like Toastmasters and start actually speaking to groups of people.
  • If you want to be a counselor, start helping out friends with personal problems first.
  • Want to have adventures? Start having smaller ones today.
  • Want to be in great shape? Introduce a small bit of exercise or healthy eating to your life already.
  • Own a business? Try a blog or website first.

The idea is that every aspect of what you believe your ideal life is, should have some representation in your current life. The advantages to doing this are the same as rapid prototyping. You get to test out bigger ideas and refine your strategies before executing them. In addition you can also notice bigger flaws (such as realizing you don’t like your chosen field of study) by actually experiencing them.


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5 Responses to “Rapid Prototype Your Life”

  1. seagull says:

    Agree with you!
    It is vital for us to experience ,not to sit there and plan everyday.

    Some of my friends don’t know what job they love or what job are suitable for them even after they finish university. I think the reason is that they have not tried to be a intern ever, instead, they just think they like XX, but the difficulties in doing XX are much more than what they expect.

    Thanks, good post!

  2. Mark Shead says:

    Very interesting thoughts! I think the reason most people take the waterfall approach is because of our fear of failure. It is much easier to do rapid prototyping when we can say, “I’m going to try something and it might work and it might not, but either way, I’ll learn something.”

    I think our approach to failure plays a big part in our ability to succeed.

  3. ZHereford says:

    How do you come up with these things?

    I agree that what sounds good in theory is quite often a bust when it comes to practical application. I’ve experienced this so many times in life myself. There’s nothing like ‘doing’ it first hand!

  4. Scott Young says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  5. […] And if you don’t experience a strong positive emotional response, go out and try something new. […]

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

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