why running your life like a startup will help you get where you want to go faster

part 1 of this post is over here -> how to make the most of the startup that is your life.

ries believes that most successful startups aren’t the ones that land on a good idea and execute it perfectly. of course those exist but building a strategy with “get lucky” as the cornerstone is a terrible idea. ries believes that most startups are ones that iterate the fastest through the build-measure-learn loop.

i have a theory that the same is true for successful people. setting up and iterating through the build-measure-learn loop for your life not only helps you make progress in the right direction, it helps you make progress faster over time. this happens most meaningfully in the context of a long-term life vision, but i think progress is still possible without that vision.*

the process works like this:


say, for example, you want to iterate through the loop regarding how you think about your diet once a week. by setting up weekly experiments regarding things in your life, you build in systems for learning. of course there will be weeks where you move in the “wrong” direction (i.e. you try something that turns out bad for you), but even that info is useful for learning.

over time, the data you gather should help you learn, over time,  how to make better decisions. example: i found that when i don’t drink coffee after 11am, i sleep better. that learning helped me structure future experiments: do i sleep even better when i only drink coffee m-f instead of seven days a week? (spoiler: the answer is yes).

then, when you start to make longer-term reflections (example: weeks 1-10), hopefully you’ll find that the subsequent experiments lead you you to make progress in the “right” direction faster. in the visual above, from unit 0-10, there was no net progress, but from 10-20, there was a lot. that learning is built on the 0-10 lessons.

the pithole that many of us fall into is that we go into jobs, careers, colleges, relationships, etc. with the (often implicit and sub-conscious) idea that we’re just going to pick right the first time. again, it’s possible for that to happen (and some companies get big this way – by just finding and executing on a good idea at the right time), but expecting to get lucky isn’t a real strategy.

and as a good friend said once (wisely),

“life is really just about shitty models and their error correction.” — spencer wilson

* i’m not sure that iterating through the loop can help set high-level direction. in fact, i think it can’t because desired values may not show up in day-to-day actions. that will result in, at best, local optimization, and not global optimization. that said, i could be wrong.