Online personal development guru Steve Pavlina is famous for having conducted a variety of 30-day experiments, be it learning the guitar, intermittent fasting, or sustaining a raw diet. To this day, he still engages in these types of experiments and blogs about them.
I discovered Pavlina’s work in 2007, and soon began the process of starting my own 30-day experiments – things like learning the mandolin or Joomla – and blogging about the experience.
Earlier that same year, though, I had already started what I called Project 365, and my aim was to write a song, every single day, for a full year.
Although I hadn’t given much thought to it until recently, since then, I’ve engaged in several 365-day experiments, each of which have brought untold blessings into my life.
These challenges are incredibly helpful in developing discipline and making massive progress in a chosen area.
But I’ll talk more about the benefits as we go. I’d like to start by sharing with you an overview of the experiments I’ve completed, and the results derived from each.
365-Day Experiments I’ve Completed
Here are the 365-day experiments I’ve completed so far:
- 2007: Wrote 365 songs in a year (and succeeded)
- 2008: Practiced guitar for three hours per day (and failed)
- 2009: Practiced guitar for three hours per day (and succeeded)
- 2015: Read 52 books in a year (and succeeded)
- 2016: Read 52 books in a year (and succeeded a second time)
- 2020 – 2021: Published daily for a full year (in progress)
Now for some of the results these experiments produced:
- In 2007, I ended up writing two fan favorite originals: “Wonderfully Dysfunctional” and “Too Late.”
- In 2008, after a brief stint as a solo artist, I joined a band again, and it went onto become one of the most successful acts I’ve been a part of to date.
- In 2015, I wrote a book review for Dr. Joseph Murphy’s The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, and to this day, it’s my highest trafficked blog post by a huge margin.
- It remains to be seen exactly all that will come out of publishing daily, but so far, I’ve gained about 1,100 Medium followers. I’ve also been invited to write for several new publications, started earning money writing on News Break, landed a five-figure ghostwriting contract, and more.
Fascinatingly and coincidentally, Pavlina also published daily in 2020, and his post on the topic is insightful.
Why Start a 365-Day Challenge?
A full year of dedicated hard work might not transform a flabby body into a ripped and cut one. It might not turn a mediocre guitarist into a phenomenal instrumentalist, or convert a lazy, broke entrepreneur into a productive, high income earner.
But you can leapfrog in a chosen area if you’re committed to the task. And whatever progress you make can act as a springboard onto greater progress and improvement.
I certainly don’t think I would be half the guitarist I am today without the effort I put into my instrument in the early days, especially in 2008 and 2009. Trying to figure out how to fit three hours of practice into my day now would be like trying to navigate uncharted waters without a compass (these days, 30 minutes per day is more than enough for ongoing maintenance and improvement).
Similarly, I wouldn’t have momentum in my book reading discipline if I hadn’t chosen to adopt the CEO habit of reading 52 books per year in 2015 and 2016. And that would not have come about without the core disciplines I picked up in network marketing from 2011 to 2015.
So, the best way to think about a 365-day challenge is as foundation-setting. Working on a specific discipline or area of life where you want to create expanded results. You can’t expect to make quantum leaps, but you can create momentum as you never have before.
Despite the benefits, a 365-day experiment will prove a challenge if:
- You’ve never done it before
- You’ve never kept a discipline for longer than a month or two
- You aren’t self-motivated
- You aren’t clear on your motivation for starting an experiment
- You overestimate what you can accomplish in a year
- You set unrealistic expectations
- You already feel overwhelmed with various commitments
These aren’t reasons not to take on the challenge. If anything, they might be good reasons to take it on. But you can’t assume or take success for granted. You will need to orient your life around the experiment and make it a priority, or there’s a good chance you’ll lose momentum and fail.
Benefits of Engaging in a Yearlong Experiment
The benefits you can gain from engaging in a yearlong experiment are many and varied and will depend a lot on the type of challenge you take on.
But in my experience, here are some of the greatest benefits you can expect to glean from a 365-day challenge:
You Can Create Breakthroughs in Your Life
Want to get more people listening to your music? Instead of relying on fancy tactics and whiz-bang funnels, what if you committed to the hard work of promoting your music daily for a full year? What difference would that make in your career? Could you create a breakthrough result?
Whether you want to get in better shape, improve as a blogger, or grow your YouTube channel, if you were fully present and dedicated to the cause for a full year, I can almost promise you that you could have a breakthrough.
Just look at some of the results I was able to create – writing some great music, publishing my most read blog post, landing a five-figure ghostwriting contract, and more.
You Can Build Confidence & Belief in Yourself
When you start a 365-day challenge, it will begin to dominate your thoughts, behavior, and conversations. Your family and friends will start asking you, “how’s that 365-day thing going?”
If, at the end of the experiment, you can say with pride, “I completed the experiment and fulfilled on all the deliverables,” it will build massive confidence and belief in yourself.
So, you start thinking to yourself, “if I could stick with a single discipline for a full year, what more could I accomplish?” And what’s waiting on the other side of that question might be well beyond your wildest imagination.
You Can Have Your Best Year Ever
Looking back, I can see that some of the best years of my life also overlap with years I was engaged in 365-day experiments. This might be obvious from some of the results I shared earlier.
One must still ask “at what cost?” Especially given that the best part of your day is probably going to be going towards fulfilling on the promises you’ve made to yourself. This is creative energy that could be dedicated to other areas of life you deem important (more on this later).
The point being – you’ve got to ensure you’re spending time on something that matters to you, or it may seem as though valuable time is being eroded away.
What Specific Challenges Can I Expect to Face During a Yearlong Experiment?
Naturally, 365-day challenges aren’t all unicorns farting rainbows. You will have your ups and downs, and if you’re engaged in creative work, you will have your good days and bad days.
Take my Project 365 experiment example from earlier. Out of 365 songs, only two were even worth committing to memory and repeating in front of an audience. That’s kind of crazy.
Here are some of the challenges I’ve encountered during yearlong experiments:
You Will Want to Compromise
You’ll need to find your footing with your challenges, so compromising isn’t necessarily good or bad. But you must accept that challenges may not go exactly as imagined or planned, which means that you’ll need to let go of any sense of perfectionism you might have around completing your challenge.
When I engaged in Project 365, even though I finished the experiment early, I ended up having to bulk write songs after longer stretches of not writing anything.
The first time I read 52 books in a year, I had to finish the year with several shorter books, some of which I’d already read in a previous year.
While publishing daily, not all my posts have been of the utmost quality.
And so on.
Again, compromise isn’t necessarily bad. But your experiment probably won’t progress exactly as you expect it to.
You’ll Need to Orient Your Life Around the Challenge
I alluded to this earlier, but as the days pass, you’ll find that you become consumed by the challenge. Even if the experiment only requires an hour or so out of your day, you may find that engaging in the activity takes everything you’ve got, becomes less pleasurable, and even turns into a source of concern or stress (especially if you’re trying to balance it with other commitments like work).
I’m nearing the completion of my daily publishing experiment, and for the most part, it has been a rewarding, fulfilling experience. I would be lying if I said there weren’t days I didn’t feel like writing or publishing anything though.
You Will Need to Sacrifice
If you make your challenge a priority, you will need to sacrifice. While you’re busy obsessing over one thing, you’ll find yourself unable to tend to others. Inevitably, you will end up having to sacrifice lesser priorities to keep up with the challenge.
Publishing daily has been great. But if I were to say that publishing daily, on average, took an hour, that’s 365 hours I could have spent doing something else (writing a book, working on music, developing a product, building a membership, pursuing other writing contracts, etc.). Looking at it that way can be sobering.
When you say “yes” to one thing, you are always saying “no” to something else.When you say “yes” to one thing, you are always saying “no” to something else. Click To Tweet
I will not look back on publishing daily in regret. But as with Pavlina, I have no intention of repeating that experience. I would like to take those creative energies and channel them elsewhere.
If any aspect of your creative career seems stagnant, a 365-day experiment can reinvigorate your passion and produce massive results in an area that matters to you.
But we can’t forget that it’s going to take discipline and work. You may need to carry out tasks on days when you don’t feel like doing anything. And even if you’re working on something you love and care about, some days it will just feel like work.
A 365-day experiment is a tool. And like any other tool, it’s meant to be applied in specific situations. It’s a hammer, if you will, and hammers are best used for pounding nails – not for sawing wood or tightening screws.
There are times to take on a challenge, and there are times to remain steady and consistent, doing exactly what you’re already doing.
Is it time for you to take on a new challenge? What area of your career or life would you work on? Are you committed to following through on your goals? What are you willing to sacrifice to get to your chosen destination? Do you know anyone that can keep you accountable? Would they be willing or interested in joining you in their own 365-day journey? What’s one thing you will take away from this post?
For more inspiration, be sure to sign up for my email list.
Don't die with your music still in you. Accomplish more with the Productivity, Performance & Profits Blackbook.