Testing New Ideas in Your Personal Staging Environment

Are you tired of reading self-help books that promise personal transformation but leave you overwhelmed with conflicting advice? I understand.

For years, I immersed myself in the world of self-help, devouring the classics like "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and "How to Win Friends & Influence People." While these books provided valuable insights, I soon realized that the sheer volume of information was hindering my growth rather than propelling it forward.

Self-help books expose you to new ideas. They level you up as a person giving you frameworks to build better habits, principles, and motivation. Read 5 or 6 books on different personal development topics and you see benefit. Read 20 or 30 and the weak law of large numbers has a big impact.

The more self-help books you read the high probability your average. What causes this to happen?

One book says you need to set clear and specific goals with milestones that build on top of each other providing you the momentum needed to reach your bigger objective. While another book says you just need a north star metric, or a vision, that you work towards everyday. So, which ones wrong?

For every self-help book, there is equal and opposite advice that contradicts what exists within its pages.

Clarity helps you grow quicker. By having a clear sense of what you need to work on you can achieve your goals, experience infinite creative potential, and become more successful in all areas of your life. Clarity is what creates growth. Clarity is how you overcome obstacles. Clarity is why self-help books exists.

A person with clarity cuts through obstacles with ease.

So when books provide contradicting advice, how do you gain a sense of clarity on the direction to go?

A place to test out your ideas

Every software has multiple versions of the product. There’s the version you use as a consume. This is the only output that we see when using a product, it’s known as the production environment.

But behind the scenes there’s another version of the product that exists. The staging environment.

A staging environment is a copy of the product. It’s a place where the product is tested. The code and configurations are taken through different scenarios so any issues can be identified prior to releasing it to customers. This environment needs to be created every time you make a change and need to test what’s been built.

Before you apply new knowledge, that should be first put through your personal staging environment. A place to test ideas.

Code will always sort itself out with time. As more time passes less issues are discovered. Time plays the biggest factor in a successful release (unfortunately there’s always a deadline). The more time you have to test a new release, the less issues there are.

A personal staging environment is just the progression of an idea from discovery, to your beliefs, to actions and behaviors. This can take on many forms like:

  • Notes: a storage of your ideas
  • Journals: a storage of your experiences
  • Thought experiments: exploring impossible situations
  • Mental models: principles and frameworks you approach the world through

Here’s how you use a personal staging environment:

1) Spend time learning what you’re going to learn.

It’s metacognition. Having an awareness or understanding of what you’re about to consume (a book, podcast, article, email, etc.) will allow you to filter out the ideas that may cause conflict with your current sense of direction.

You’ll create confirmation bias by doing this, but there’s certain times when you need to avoid conflicting information.

For example, if you’re trying to become more productive then you might apply an Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize your to-do list. Spending the time to learn about the Ivy Lee Method will only add unnecessary information you have to sort through to come up with a productivity system. Avoiding the article all together while you test the Eisenhower Matrix is probably better in the long run.

Taking 5-10 minutes to understand what is is your about to consume can save you mental bandwidth. It’s the easiest way to maintain focus on the habit or principle you’re trying to apply to your life.

2) Let the ideas collect dust

Don’t just learn something and immediately seek to apply it to your life. Not every idea will work for you. Capture the best ideas that exists out there and then let those collect dust.

Time becomes a great filter when you’re looking for clarity. Write them down and store the information somewhere so you’ll remember it. Continually revisit those ideas and review them. Then decide what should be applied to your life.

The ideas that collect dust just aren’t important to your life at the moment. There’s seasons of life we go through and those require different sets of ideas to continue to evolve.

3) Sort out conflicting ideas

When you have two ideas that conflict with each other decide what you make of them before trying apply both.

I got a degree in Economics. An underlying pattern in any market is that they always tend towards equilibrium. The opposing forces of supply and demand will always balance. This was illustrated through Adam Smith’s principle of the invisible hand.

It was my belief that everything tends towards balance for the longest time.

The second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases with time. As I started to learn more about physics, it became clear entropy (the measure of disorder) was an underlying pattern the big ideas there.

So which is it, do things eventually move towards disorder or balance?

This clash in ideas is something I thought about for weeks before deciding how it would shape the paradigm in which I lived my life. Eventually, after enough testing in the staging environment of my mind, I decided that things naturally move towards balance. But it’s in balance that disorder creeps in. This changed the way I value balance in my life (I’ll tell you that philosophy another time).

4) Test the ideas

You need to have the ability to hit pause and understand if your work and ideas meet the standards you’ve set for yourself.

You need test for them to pass.

Five time Grammy award winner, Max Martin, subjects every finished song to what he calls the “LA car test”. He blast the song from his car speakers as he drives around the city and up the PCH.

The goal is to see how it sounds, feels, and if it enhances the experience he’s having. Do people on the side of the road notice what he’s playing? Does it fit the vibe he was going for?

When working on Watch the Throne, Diplo recounted his time with Kanye West. As they sat down to produce a song Kanye said, “I’m bringing Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen over because they’re like my thermometer for what white girls listen to I guess.”

Having different way to beta test your ideas with others gets you the best results. Each piece of work or idea may need to have different test.

When I want to test ideas, I use my friends to beta test it. I’m looking for a reaction that makes my friends doing cool things think and get shrugged off by people trending towards the status quo. This is my signal that an idea is worth keeping the dust off of. I want don't want to apply things to my life that conform to average. It's the trail-end contrarian ideas that give you an edge when they're applied

Remember, your personal staging environment is a place for exploration, testing, and reflection. It's a space where ideas can simmer and evolve before being integrated into your life.

Embrace the freedom to let ideas sit and marinate until the time is right for them to be applied. In this journey of personal growth, there is no deadline or rush. Trust the process, give yourself the space to experiment, and allow the clarity you seek to emerge organically.

FOOTNOTES

Join 1,000+ others receiving Pioneers Project

Every Sunday, you'll receive ideas to help you challenge the status quo, refine your craft, and shape the future.