Before I moved from Seattle to Cedar Rapids, I booked a week-long stay at a Cedar Rapids Airbnb so I could do a “site visit.” I ran a similar test a few years before, when I was considering moving from Seattle to Portland—and although the Portland site visit didn’t convince me that I needed to make a permanent move, the week I spent in Cedar Rapids culminated with my signing a year-long lease on an apartment.
I am a huge fan of testing, iterating and/or discarding ideas before fully committing to them, which is why I very much appreciated author and entrepreneur David Kadavy’s recent tweet about creating pilots for proposed life changes. Like, literal pilots. As if we were writing a TV show.
When they make a new TV show, they run a “pilot.” You can make pilots in your life:
–Pilot a new habit
–Pilot a new diet
–Pilot a productivity technique
–Pilot living in a new city
Pilots relieve the pressure of change, & help you collect information to make a decision.
— ???? ???????????????????? ???????????????????????? (@kadavy) April 28, 2020
If you were going to create a television show called “Nicole Lives in Cedar Rapids,” you’d start by writing and producing a pilot episode—or, in my case, spending a week in a Cedar Rapids Airbnb. Then you’d evaluate how well the pilot performed. Was it fun? Engaging? Does it make you want to keep watching? Could you get six seasons and a movie out of this idea?
I know that not everybody can drop everything and spend a week in a new city before deciding to move there—especially right now, when we’re all supposed to be staying at home—but you can still find ways to incorporate the pilot concept into other types of decision-making. Regular Lifehacker readers might remember, for example, that back in April I tried to tweak my daily routine to accommodate a new weightlifting habit. My initial plan, which was to put my dumbbells next to my desk and complete a few reps every time I finished a freelancing assignment, did not work. The pilot concept failed almost instantly.
However, pilots can be tweaked. We’ve all heard about the pilots that were cleverly re-shot to incorporate a casting change, for example—and in my case I was able to develop a sustainable weights routine by ditching the idea of doing short sets throughout the day and switching to the better idea of doing longer sets twice a week.
Sometimes, piloting is built right into the system: We date people before we marry them, we buy day passes before signing up for a season pass, we get a seven-day free trial before our credit card gets charged. Other times, we have to figure out how to write, cast and shoot the pilots on our own—and then we have to decide whether or not to continue producing episodes.
But that’s the great thing about the pilot concept. If you run a pilot and it feels right, you’ve learned something important. If it feels wrong, you’ve learned something even more important—and potentially saved yourself from making an unwise decision. If you’re considering making the type of life change that you can’t easily take back, the pilot concept can save you from making a choice you might regret. If you’re considering a smaller life change, like picking up a new habit, running a pilot can help you test and tweak your idea until you’ve got something you can sustain for a full season.
What kinds of life changes (large or small) are you considering right now, and how can you pilot them before deciding whether or not to commit?