Experiment, Take Risks, Fail, Iterate
Let's pretend I sent this issue last Thursday.
life: examined is an invitation to get curious—a collection of ideas, and thoughts about living a creative, intentional life—written from my perch in Portugal to you.
—> Thank you for your support <—
I excel at making mistakes. For me, making mistakes isn’t failure—mistakes are essential to a life examined.
Experiment, make mistakes, take risks, iterate. Repeat.
Risks don’t need to include icy mountain peaks with limited oxygen supply; experiments don’t need to contain caustic chemicals (but if yours do, let me know how you get on with that).
Anything that requires you to do something that’s enticing, but a bit scary, potentially life-changing, but not necessarily death-defying, is an experiment worth trying. If you're brave enough to keep going with life experiments, then who knows, what started as a failure could lead to success. Tiny victories count, FYI.
Choose to stay safe and try not to make mistakes; you'll learn absolutely nothing (new). That's not my way, but it seems many people tread this path.
I value living life as a big experiment rather than living in pursuit of safety.
Sure, I want to feel safe in general ways—when walking down the street, in my home, when reaching for the last bar of vegan chocolate at the organic grocery store—but I have no illusions that safety is an obtainable destination (or a desirable one).
Nothing will ensure that threats won't exist, whether alarm company stickers on the windows or that can of mace in your pocket (not legal in Portugal; don’t even think about it). So, with that knowledge, what can we do to take calculated risks and flirt with failure in pursuit of deeper meaning and fulfillment?
What? Failure, risk, and mistake-making don't sound like the way to fulfillment? Aww, why not?
I'm not doing anything outside my comfort zone if I'm not making mistakes. And although my comfort zone is cozy, it's not where I want to live all the time.
Take moving abroad, for instance. This decision put me way outside my zone of comfort.
Although I feel at home in Portugal, I'm hyper-aware of the energy it takes, both physically and mentally, to be somewhere other than where I grew up knowing (thinking I knew) how to do life.
It's exhilarating and exhausting—and autopilot is not an option.
Living eyes wide-open each day is taxing. After spending two hours at the bank, twice in one week, the brain hurts. Trying to get the gist of words in what might be an Alentejan dialect, flowing from a kindly but cranky Portuguese gent selling flowers at the Mercado, requires all synapses to be firing—plus a little luck and magic.
There are many days that luck’s not on my side—and there is no magic. On those days, a nap is the best remedy.
I Know Nothing
Beginner's Mind, from the Zen Buddhist term, Shosin, is a state of curiosity, openness, and lack of preconceptions. I've championed Beginner’s Mind in a recent issue; it’s the only place you can reside when you uproot yourself to be a human abroad—wherever that abroad happens to be.
Many people say they'd love to live in a foreign country. Still, they'll never get past the fear and what-ifs that permeate a life of unknowns.
Fear of the unknown is a powerful impediment to growth.
Pro tip: Your life at home is unknown—you've just grown comfortable with that particular set of circumstances and the delusion that you have more than a soupçon of control.
Nearly every day when chatting or texting with friends who live nearby, you'll find us remarking #IKnowNothing. It's a phrase so common, we gave it a hashtag.
Do we feel bad about this not knowing? No! It's fabulous to not be, need to be, or pretend to be the most competent person in the room. It’s a relief to know nothing; to have the opportunity to learn the most basic things we’d take for granted in our places of origin.
How often as adults do we get to learn a whole new set of life skills and cultural practices? It’s humbling, that’s for sure.
Recently, friends and I speculated why a parade with a brass band composed mainly of tubas, and one snare drummer drumming, was making its way down the street at noon on a Tuesday. And what the heck is their affiliation?!
We find out what’s going on, sometimes, or we don't. Then it's on to the next Portuguese mystery that delights us in the land of not knowing.
You don't need to live abroad to take risks and push the boundaries of comfort.
It might not be as easy to get out of your comfort zone in familiar surroundings, but when you live in other than the place/city/country that started as home everything can feel risky and prickly-uncomfortable.
So, you either develop a taste for it, or the prickles send you packing your bags and back to the relative security of on-demand Amazon deliveries and whatever other immediate gratifications you're sure you can't live without.
I'm sure most of my readers live more on the experimentation side of life—or they'd like to.
Maybe that's why you keep showing up each week. To follow the risks, failures, and changes I make on this grand experiment (more are on the way—stay tuned!). Or maybe you just like my dry sense of humor.
Tell me: are you a risk-taker? Is life an opportunity to experiment, or do you seek the path of least resistance and comfort? Do tell!
Favorite Portuguese to English Auto-Translation of the Week:
In addition to sweets, there are also French fries and barrels from Spanish brands that we can't find in the supermarket. To balance a lot and not just be fats, the space sells teas from Germany.
That German tea will balance you out, apparently.
Thanks to Hilary, Dana, Deb, Sande, Tina, and anonymous good people for supporting life: examined through Buy Me a Coffee. Not expected, but always appreciated!
Whether it’s a coffee, a comment, a like, or a share—I’m grateful for your support!
Be well, stay curious, take a few risks, and thanks for reading life: examined