Finding what fits you best in order to design the perfect life you want and deserve takes a lot of experimenting. You have to try dozens of different things to find the one that works perfectly for you as a unique individual. In addition to that, “fits” are not a static thing. Your values, environment, the type of opportunities that you’re exposed to and the things you appreciate change over time. That means experimenting must be done constantly.
Experimenting is fun by itself and you can enjoy many benefits doing it, but it’s also demanding and expensive. It takes a toll on your emotions, because you usually have to face a series of small failures in the beginning and you often need to invest at least some money into performing an experiment; besides time, energy and creativity, which are always needed.
Every experiment does give you a lot – a diverse life experience, gaining insights about yourself and your environment, having lots of fun and putting your creative self to use. Nevertheless, only experimenting is never enough. The end goal of experimenting is to move forward and to progress much faster towards your goals. Experiments must lead you to validated learning that enables you to shape a superior life strategy.
The sooner you shape a superior life strategy, the better off you will be in life. The idea of how to get to massive success is to move fast and learn fast. You have to conduct experiment after experiment until you nail it.
You have to experiment all the way until you can finally move from the search mode into the execution mode. The problem is that a high frequency of many different types of experiments leads to using a lot of resources. And you don’t want to drown before you succeed.
Luckily today with all the technology and tools available, you can do many experiments fast and they don’t cost a lot of money. The concept is known as rapid prototyping and it’s used in business all the time. In this article, you will learn how to use the same principle in your personal life.
The main idea is very simple. With rapid prototyping in personal life, you want to get to the minimum viable experience as quickly as possible using the fewest resources. Before we go to many different ideas for using rapid prototyping in personal life, let’s quickly overview the main theory behind prototyping.
Prototyping and rapid prototyping
You’re probably familiar with the word prototype. A prototype is a simplified early working model of a final product that demonstrates the key functionalities and benefits that the final product will provide.
A prototype can be built to test if an idea even works, it can be built to explore additional ideas, for demonstration purposes and learning as much as possible about how to improve the final product so that the targeted segment will really use it.
When building a prototype, the most important goal is to gather all the data and specifications to build a real working product in the next step. Prototyping is always far away from only talking about theoretical ideas. It’s the first big step towards realizing an idea. It means taking a theoretical idea and materializing it in its simplified form, so you can start learning how well the idea fits into the world.
Prototype is a simulation of the final product so you can start learning as quickly as possible.
We know low-fidelity prototypes that are really basic draft versions of a product. They are often only paper based and don’t allow any real interaction between a user and a prototype. The main goal of low-fidelity prototypes is to visualize solutions, explore alternative versions and encourage additional ideas. They are extremely inexpensive and can be built fast.
And then we also know high-fidelity prototypes, which are much more perfected, exact and evident. They allow test groups at least some interaction and are much more effective in getting feedback. Their problem is, of course, that they demand more resources to be build.
We also know different kinds of prototypes to gather different kinds of data and do different kinds of tests. There are proof-of-principle prototypes, the goal of which is to prove that an idea can work in real life. Then we have visual prototypes to get a good visual representation of how the final product would look like. A user experience prototype simulates the user’s experience with the final product. A functional prototype, on the other hand, puts visual representation and features to the test.
With technology developing fast, there is a relatively new technique called rapid prototyping (wiki) that’s becoming more and more popular. With rapid prototyping, you can very quickly build a scale model of your final product or many different versions of it. With techniques like 3D printing, you can basically print dozens of different ideations fast.
Besides 3D printing, there are many other awesome tools, apps and approaches that enable you to bring models and other representation types of your ideas to life inexpensively and while your ideas are still hot.
Rapid prototyping means that you can test many different ideas in a short time frame, gather all the necessary feedback and move fast towards the solutions that work the best.
Don’t talk about it, do, try, experience or show.
Get educated and then start experimenting as quickly as possible
There are several prototyping phases or, to be more exact, steps before you start prototyping. The standard phases are:
In the understand, observe and define phase you gather all the data needed to start prototyping. In this phase it’s most often necessary to get well educated. There are rare exceptions when you want to take a fresh look on an old thing, but many times extensive research and acquiring knowledge helps a lot.
When you have the basic knowledge and landscape, you can better orientate yourself towards what exactly you want to achieve and find out by experimenting. You also have an understanding of what other people have already tried, and even more importantly what they have missed.
Especially when experimenting in personal life, it’s extremely important to get very well educated and completely understand the risk, rewards, investments needed and the process. When you understand all these things, you can put your creative mind to work. After you get educated and brainstorm all the potential ideas, the goal you want to achieve with prototyping in personal life is to get a real-life experience as soon as possible.
When designing a prototype, you try to get to the minimum viable experience as soon as possible with the fewest resources with which it can be done. The sooner you start building, the more motivated you are, and immediate implementation enables you to start learning from the beginning of the process.
When you’re in the prototyping phase, you should also explore several options and ideas. You mustn’t get emotionally attached to only one potential solution. After defining your hypotheses and ideas for how you will perform an experiment, you have to start prototyping different solutions, test them and move on before you get fixed on any specific ideas.
In the prototyping phase, you must keep your divergent thinking active, you must completely shut down your inner critic and keep your mind open.
When you’re prototyping you are looking for two things – the ways to (1) improve current ideas and (2) completely new ideas. The first approach is called serial prototyping, which is a progressive method of upgrading known ideas. It means that you are looking for new versions of the same solutions.
The second approach is called parallel prototyping, where you are looking for ideas in completely new directions. You are looking for something that doesn’t exist yet at all.
Minimum Viable Experience is a process of idea generation, prototyping, presentation, data collection, analysis and learning about yourself and your environment.
No matter if you are doing serial or parallel prototyping, you want your prototypes to be simple, provide rapid feedback, help you embrace change and, last but not least, prototyping should be fun. You may be more limited when you’re experimenting and prototyping in personal life than when you are dealing with business ideas, because you’re rarely building a new product, but instead you just want to experience something new.
Nevertheless, if you are creative enough, there is always a way to acquire new experiences without diving in fully and risking everything. Even in personal life there is always a way to first test something in a controlled way with some kind of a prototype.
- Main insights
- What worked
- What didn’t work
- New questions and doubts
- New ideas for experiments
- New ideas in general
Examples of rapid prototyping in personal life
The main goal of performing an experiment in personal life is very simple. You want to learn in a very controlled environment or in a very controlled way if something (an idea) works as planned, or you want to better understand how the world works.
You want to get one step closer to the objective truth and get rid of your subjective cognitions and wrong assumptions. You do that by employing the search mode concept and undertaking a scientific approach to experimenting.
You set hypotheses, define how you will collect and analyze data, and then you perform experiments and draw conclusions. Consequently, you validate or disprove your hypotheses. That leads to validated learning and insights.
You can make decisions and take actions based on more accurate data. Prototyping is one of the ways how you can perform the data-gathering part of an experiment. Luckily, there are many different types of prototypes that can help you achieve that.
Below are listed the most popular prototyping techniques together with a few ideas for how you can use each technique in your personal life.
- Genchi Genbutsu
- Pen and paper
- Mockups and models
- Wizard of Oz test
- Storyboards and use cases
- Video prototyping and simulations
- Scenarios and flow charts
- Templates and guidelines
Genchi Genbutsu is not really a prototyping technique, but the main way of experimenting in personal life. It’s means “go and see” or “go out of the building” to gain first-hand knowledge. In other words, try it and see for yourself whether something works for you or not.
The highest number of experiments you’ll probably do in life are the ones where you try and experience something new and then observe metrics – either your body metrics, your feelings, your capabilities or any other type of life metrics. You try a new behavior and then observe yourself and your environment. In today’s times, you can try many different things easily and inexpensively. All you need is a little bit of courage.
You can try many different sports, diets, types of arts and everything else life has to offer. You live in the best times ever to discover yourself and find the things you are really good at and that you enjoy. You can test different kinds of behaviors in real life and what kind of feedback they give you, you can test different types of habits, technology and careers.
There are almost no limits to what you can try. You can rent an expensive bike for a downhill ride. You can join a hobby group and try any kind of art or other discipline. You have so many resources to try coding. You can join an afternoon project in an industry you’re attracted to. Genchi Genbutsu.
Pen and paper
Using pen and paper is the fastest and cheapest form of prototyping. It can be done anywhere and anytime, as long as you have paper and a pencil somewhere at hand – which I absolutely recommend that you do. When an idea comes to mind or when you need to develop one, you simply sketch it on paper. As an alternative, you can also use the origami technique to present some ideas with paper.
The freedom of pen and paper often encourages experimentation and generation of new ideas. There is a special connection between your mind, hand and pen. You don’t have to be Picasso to sketch, it’s only about giving shape to your ideas and doing many iterations fast. Nobody will judge your prototypes.
You can use pen and paper to brainstorm ideas. You can use pen and paper to do self-reflection and understand yourself better. You can draft a flat or a house you desire. You can draw a persona or write an essay about your perfect spouse or ideal self.
You can easily draw a table with all the pros and cons for a certain decision so you can decide more easily. You can outline what kind of a personal blog you’d like to have. You can try to write a poem or a love letter. You can sketch different ideas.
Mockups and models
Mockups are slightly advanced representations of ideas. They are 3D illustrations or models that represent the core design and simulate at least some functionalities of the final product. Mockups are an extremely popular design prototyping technique. There are many different types, like models or even wireframes that represent an idea of how a website should work.
You can use many different approaches and techniques to do mockups. You can use different software applications, you can build physical models from cardboards, paper, woods and other materials. Not to forget 3D printing. You can take advantage of to print actual models of the ideas you have.
I’m currently testing a standing desk with nothing but a simple model. The model is made out of a wardrobe and a rack. Many do-it-yourself things would fall into this category of prototyping. From office organization and storage solutions to 3D printing of the things you like, there are many ways to use simplified solutions, models, mock-ups and creative innovations instead of buying expensive products and solutions.
At this point, we should also mention crowdfunding and crowdsourcing ideas to get feedback from the community or even to fund your ideas. Today you can easily show your ideas to the world and get immediate feedback. With Minimum Viable Products, you can also easily test market interest for your ideas.
Wizard of Oz test
The idea behind the Wizard of Oz test is that you somehow fake a functionality you want to build. You do that primarily to save resources. The technique is used extensively in software development.
For example, you can test a new software functionality, but instead of coding it and having a computer perform the functionalities and all the interactions, it can be done by a human with remote control technologies. A tester doesn’t know that, of course.
Examples of Wizard of Oz tests in personal life would be to inexpensively try something you want in order to see if it really brings you happiness. Rent a Ferrari for a day and imagine it’s yours. Try to live in a foreign country for a month before you finally move there. Go to a tech store and spend an hour playing with a computer you want to buy.
Or, for example, you can learn 100 most popular phrases of a new language, try to use it on the street and see how it feels to speak a new language. Sometimes you can fake it until you make it; or decide to not make it at all, because it’s not for you.
Storyboards and use cases
With a storyboard, you can describe the whole desired user experience through a series of sketches and images. Storyboards are a great way to brainstorm additional ideas, think of alternative scenarios and all the ways how things can go right or wrong.
You can also use storyboards to describe different use cases of ideas and products; or you can employ use cases as a standalone prototyping technique.
A Kanban board is kind of a storyboard representing your sprint or to-do list. You can use a storyboard to describe how you could/should act in certain situations – when your boss criticizes you, for example. You can outline all the ways how you could use a specific product or how certain ideas could improve your life.
You can use storyboards to prepare yourself for public appearances or how you will tell your kids a story in the best way possible. You can sketch life stories with storyboards. And you don’t need any drawing skills for storyboards, there are many online solutions that can help you with that.
Video prototyping and simulations
The idea of video prototyping is that you illustrate your main idea using video or by making a movie. You can prepare a short movie or a different kind of visual representation. An alternative to videos are also interactive or non-interactive simulations.
Make a video of your perfect life or your perfect self. Design a short motivational video clip on the topic of why you want to be rich. Prepare a video as part of your CV. Open a YouTube channel to connect with like‑minded people. Prepare a video simulation of your dream house.
Role-playing is a great way to develop empathy. You take on a role of another person and try to experience a situation or use a product from their perspective. It helps you understand their point of view. When you’re role-playing, it makes sense to focus on what the person you are impersonating would say, do, think and feel.
You can role-play with your spouse to better understand each other. You can play a role of what kind of a person you would be with a certain characteristic you currently don’t possess and how your life would unfold in the future (the so-called Fixed Role Therapy). You can role-play an action you’re afraid of doing, especially involving authorities that make you freeze up.
Mind-mapping means using diagrams to visually organize information. It allows you to represent different hierarchies and relations between elements. Mind-mapping is a great way to brainstorm ideas and outline complex structures. It’s also a very suitable technique for how your brain works. Many smart people use mind maps to learn faster, brainstorm and do analytical work.
You can use mind maps for brainstorming ideas, breaking down complex subjects or grasping the main ideas of the book you just read.
You can use mind maps for strategic planning, personal project management, problem solving, job searching, as a life planner, to-do list, travel plan, risk management or even a personal training plan. There are basically unlimited options for how you can use mind maps.
Scenarios and flow charts
Flowcharts are used to explain a process, algorithm or workflow. Steps of the process are visualized with boxes and arrows showing connections between different steps.
An important part of every process are also decisions that need to be taken in order for the process to be completed one way or another. Decisions are usually visualized in diamond-shaped boxes in the chart. By using a flowchart, you can easily understand the process from the beginning to the end.
Scenarios, on the other hand, aren’t diagrammatic representations of a process, but a written description of a sequence of desired events, illustrating all the activities that need to be performed in the real-world environment to achieve a specific goal.
With scenarios, you can describe in detail how a certain system, process or application already works and why it’s important, or you can describe hypothetical scenarios of what could happen in different settings with different products, knowledge, people etc.
You can prepare a flowchart of how you will get your job or find your perfect spouse. You can combine the flowchart technique with the AARRR funnel. You can prepare a flowchart for how you will get fit or rich or prioritize what you will learn first in your hour of power.
With flowcharts, you can define different milestones in your relationships or life in general, analyze in which directions your big decisions could lead you or prepare a step-by-step career development plan.
You can do pretty much the same by using scenarios as you can do with flowcharts. It all depends on which technique works better for you. With scenarios, you can prepare detailed descriptions of how your life would look like in different settings; for example, if you lived in a flat or a house.
You can develop alternative paths for your life when you’re making big decisions to have detailed representations of where each decision would lead you. You can prepare scenarios as an input for visualization.
Templates and guidelines
Templates and guidelines are a kind of framework for better decision-making or performing certain actions in a very standardized way. A template is a layout that you can use over and over again to save time, energy, decision-making power and other resources.
Guidelines are nothing but general rules, pieces of advice and principles that you follow. Templates and guides should help you work smart, not only hard.
You can prepare a budgeting template that you use to manage your finances. You can prepare work guidelines or time management guidelines or guidelines for how you will raise your kids in order to agree on the main parenting things with your spouse.
You can prepare household guidelines with clarifications of who does what. A personal not-to-do list is a type of a personal guideline.
It’s time to start prototyping
There are so many ways how you can prototype; and there are so many tools you can use for it. Specialized apps and online tools, boards, paper only, pen and paper, spreadsheets, text editing software, 3D printing, building models at home from different materials, “go out and see” philosophy, PowerPoint presentations, 3D modeling tools etc. The options are endless; you just have to be a little bit creative.
By knowing all these creative endeavors for living a more diverse and fulfilling life, you simply can’t get bored. There is always something to build, something to test, there are so many different things you can try and do. There are so many different ways how you can play and progress fast at the same time.
You don’t have to be a creative genius. You just have to appreciate life enough, be curious and nurture a desire to live a rich life experience. If you can’t find enough motivation, remember that you are going to die someday. Your time here is limited, so don’t waste your life.
It doesn’t matter if your prototypes aren’t as good as the ones from Apple. But what does matter a lot is how full is the life you’ll live and what your life strategy will be. I suggest you decide for a smart and superior life strategy. The one that works in the 21st century. So start creating, prototyping and experimenting.
Brainstorm what would be the coolest first prototype you can design and then go into action. Go out and see, be bold and start playing.