2 min read

Guess and Check

In many ways, guess and check is the prerequisite mindset to effectively run a (life) experiment.
Guess and Check

Math was always my favorite subject. It made sense to me and I was good at it. Though my long division is not quite as sharp as it used to be, I still employ a strategy I was introduced to as a way to solve problems, guess and check.

Guess and check could often be used when solving proof type math problems, like:

Ben knows 100 baseball players by name. Ten are Red Sox. The rest are Blue Jays and Diamondbacks. He knows the names of twice as many Diamondbacks as Blue Jays. How many Blue Jays does he know by name?

And though there would often be more discrete ways to solve certain types of these questions, guess and check was always my go-to...and it still is, just not only with math.

As much as I'd love to tell you I have it all figured out, I don't, and anything I have in some sense figured out stems from the same way I figured out that Ben knows 30 Blue Jays by name (still got it!), guess and check.

I use guess and check to complete work projects I was unsure of, I use it to train my dog, and I use it in most other facets of my life. In many ways, guess and check is the prerequisite mindset to effectively run a (life) experiment.

Whenever I feel fear, uncertainty, or confusion, I remind myself that this might be an apt time to “guess and check.” Here’s some things you can do to make guessing and checking most impactful and effective:

1 - Begin with the end in mind. Spend some time getting some sense of what success or a solution might look like. Understand that you won’t always have a clear picture of what you’re working towards.

In the example above, this might just be taking a moment to get clear on the fact that the answer must lie somewhere between 0 and 90.

2 - Take action. Take action that you think will help you move closer to a solution. How accurate your action may be will be dependent on how many times you’ve worked through challenges of a similar nature.

In the example above, knowing I need to start somewhere, I might guess that Ben knows 25 Blue Jays.

3 - Be willing to fail. This is key. We can’t expect to get it right on the first try and we have to understand that depending on the complexity and difficulty of the problem, we may need to fail over and over as we work towards a solution.

In the example above, guessing there are 25 Blue Jays would mean that there are only 85 total players, not 100. I’m close!

4 - Keep showing up. “Failure” when you’re diligently working towards a solution is really just clarity on next steps. See that missing the mark is actually leading you to where you want to go.

In the example above, my first guess may have put me close enough to realize that if Ben instead knows 30 Blue Jays, that he would know 60 Diamondbacks, which means he knows 100 total baseball players - nice!

5 - Set more audacious goals. Ok, so you did that, now what can you do? Maybe you don’t try to solve the hardest math proof in the world, but maybe you can now tackle something 4% harder?

Life is hard, it’s okay to guess. Rarely will we know what to do next, but be willing to take action, be willing to fail. Keep showing up, and keep being you.