Test Your Ideas (And Assumptions)

Lately, I’ve been playing around with the idea of creating a Monday Mailer podcast featuring audio versions of my articles, along with occasional original content. I’ve dabbled with audio projects in the past, but never on a regular basis. It’s an exciting idea, but I’m most definitely an amateur when it comes to this sort of thing.

It can be scary to try something outside your comfort zone, whether it’s a side project, added responsibilities at work, or a new hobby. You’re putting yourself out there, raw and vulnerable. But if you don’t push your boundaries every once in a while, you’ll never grow.

I have no idea if my podcast idea will be well-received. So, instead of jumping in with both feet, I’m reframing the concept as a simple test. There're a few questions I’m hoping to answer:

  1. Is a podcast something my audience wants?
  2. Do I have the ability to produce a quality episode, each and every week?
  3. Can I speak in a way that’s warm and inviting, rather than annoying?

Instead of committing lots of time and resources to trying it out, I’m putting on my lab coat and testing a hypothesis: “I can produce a podcast episode that people will enjoy listening to.” You can take this approach in your work, too.

Break your idea down into the smallest possible version of itself. Ask yourself:

“What’s the least I can do to test this out in front of real people?”

Cut everything else out and share it with the world. Right now. It isn’t easy – you’ll worry it isn’t polished enough. But that’s the point. If your audience doesn’t “get it” in the rough stages, it’s unlikely a few extra hours of work will change their minds. You can always improve it later if the feedback is positive.

In my case, I recorded a quick test track – around a minute and a half long – and put it up on my website. I added a quick, anonymous survey and tweeted out the link. So far, the feedback has ranged from “This is awesome!” to “You sound like you’re copying Ira Glass.” Some of the more critical comments sting a little, at first. But I’d rather hear them now than ten episodes down the road.

It’s important that we separate ourselves from our work, sometimes. Don’t hold any idea so tight you can’t make changes or move on if needed. It might take 100 failed experiments before you find something that works. And that’s okay.

Real success isn’t hitting it out of the park with every at bat. That never happens. Real success is spending your time on what matters and making the most of it.