The One Simple Test That Will Change Your Business & Life (Why I Got Drunk for 30 Days)

by Alexander Heyne · 25 comments

I got drunk every night in November.

Yep. 30 days straight. And no I’m not an alcoholic.

In November I spent those 30 days learning about wine as part of my massive monthly effort to do little lifestyle experiments.

This particular experiment was related to giving myself a flow test and learn more about my natural strengths and inclinations.

For more than a year I have actively pursued many methods to help hone in on my “passions” and natural strengths, but many of these programs overwhelmingly had one main flaw: the fact that you can only “think it through” so much.

Now, sometime between giving myself a strengthsfinder test and going through half a dozen books on learning what you’re good at, I came across the recommendation to give myself a flow test.

This was said to be a regular exercise of Jim Collins, who wrote Good to Great and is a legendary business guru.   Daniel Pink in his book Drive also recommended this.

Now, before I talk about how awesome flow tests are (and how to carry them out), I want to show you why they’re so important.

Stop waiting for love at first site and start testing the waters

Many people make a massive error when trying to improve their work, life or relationships.  They do exactly what I did – try to work it all out in their head.

It’s like when you first start selling a product online or take up a new hobby – there are TONS of assumptions in your head but only some of them, you realize, are correct once you start testing. And there’s TONS of weird stuff you would never have guessed was effective, but the little experiments (reality) confirmed they were.

Many of us try to work out our relationships in our head – as if we can control the future and exactly how it will pan out.

And many of us have a list of qualities and characteristics we want our ideal partner to have — only to find that, once we got the partner, they weren’t that important or we really didn’t like them.

I fell for this too when trying to initially figure out what business I wanted to start, which is part of the reason why I collected so many false-starts and failures  (read more about my previous false-starts and failures here).

Ultimately, this led to the realization that rapid testing is much more important than thinking things through, and fortunately, there are nifty little exercises to rapidly test many of our assumptions.

If you have no goddamn clue what you could possibly do for the rest of your life, spend as little time as possible testing as many various options as you can.

A perfect example of rapidly testing ideas is Sean over at Oneweekjob.comwho worked a new job every week for 52 weeks in an attempt to get closer to figure out  what he loves to do for work.

Stop thinking you’re going to be finding that one straight shot for your dream person, your dream job, or your dream lifestyle. Creating anything ideal is not about “finding” it, but about assembling each piece of the puzzle over time.

For many many years I figured I would just test the things out a bit. Date someone here, date someone there, and never commit, because when I found the one I’d know right?

I did the same for work – in one year I started (and quit) four jobs trying to get closer to a more ideal job every time.

And I did the same for life – I lived in rural areas, massive cities, I lived in cities that spoke English and cities that spoke French, German & Chinese.  I lived at home and I lived abroad.

The actual lifestyle experiments themselves turned out to be much more valuable than my many thousands of hours thinking things through. Test. 

What does drinking wine and getting drunk have to do with all of this?

It took me a long time to realize it, but you’re probably a lot like me. If you’re reading this you’re probably very intellectual (read: in your head) about how you approach life.

You think you can work most of the path out in your head, and then make more informed decisions in person.

Unfortunately In my experience this is a totally false mindset – you can only “guess” so accurately based on intellectual assessment.

Drinking wine for 30 days was part of my experiment in learning as much about as many random topics as possible, to see what ended up sticking.

And that’s where the flow test comes in.

Flow testing 101


A couple months back, I was thinking a hell of a lot about my life and where I wanted it to go. There were too many things in my head, too many businesses I wanted to test or start, and too many other variables that were making decision making impossible.

I was getting unhappy too.

So I decided to keep it stupid simple.  I set an alarm at 5-7 times throughout the day, and when it went off, I recorded how I felt, what I was doing, and whether or not I was in flow.

So my daily alarm schedule looked like this:

  • 9 am   — Feeling:        Currently doing:             In Flow?
  • 11 am — Feeling:        Currently doing:             In Flow?
  • 1 pm   — Feeling:        Currently doing:             In Flow?
  • 3 pm   — Feeling:        Currently doing:             In Flow?
  • 5 pm   — Feeling:        Currently doing:             In Flow?
  • 7 pm   — Feeling:        Currently doing:             In Flow?
  • 9 pm   — Feeling:        Currently doing:             In Flow?

A lot of the time, my answers looked like this:

9 am: Feeling: Bored   Currently Doing: Working  In Flow?  Nope.

But sometimes, an interesting gem popped up, like this:

5 pm: Feeling: Excited, motivated  Currently Doing: Writing a free guide  In Flow: Yep (For 3-5 hours straight)

6 pm: Feeling: Happy, energized Currently doing: Working out In Flow: Yep

8:30 pm: Feeling: Excited, almost manic excited Currently Doing: Consulting a new biz owner on ways to bring in more customers In Flow: Yes, couldn’t sleep.

4 pm: Feeling: Insanely excited Currently Doing: Preparing a talk for a big conference In Flow: Yes, crazy motivated

7 Pm: Feeling: Light, happy Currently Doing: Making dinner In Flow: Yes

11 Pm: Feeling: Exciteed, relaxed Currently Doing: Carving a pumpkin In Flow: Yes

The simple test that will change it all

Jim Collins was said to regularly give himself flow tests to constantly improve his efficiency and find out what activities obviously weren’t doing it for him, and which activities naturally made him feel happy and motivated.

One thing this test will show you is the quality of your work: usually if you’re not in flow, you’re not getting much done. Work is segmented. There are constant interruptions. It’s boring and un-engaging.

It’s pretty much your typical office 9-5.

I learned that my day-job work is almost never flow-producing which was a deadgivaway that it was time to switch jobs and that I wasn’t learning much.

I also learned some new things that I had no idea were so fun: like designing online programs and information products. They are naturally flow producing for me and leave me in a happy, motivated state even after I’ve worked for 5 hours.

This goes along well with what I frquently talk about – going with the past of least resistance instead of forcing yourself to be disciplined.

It also showed me a new strength/passion of mine: speaking. A few months ago I gave a speech to the American Marketing Association, and everything from preparing the speech& the slides, to actually giving it, was flow-producing for me. The entire thing was fun.

The test also went a long way towards showing me what makes me happy on a daily basis — such as activities that have a clear beginning and clear ending, with plenty of feedback along the way.

Other random things (like siting and drinking an espresso in the afternoon with a book) made me more happy than I thought.

Another randomly enjoyable experience was just sitting down in a coffee shop with a business owner and talking about how to use digital products to expand the online portion of their business. I realized that teaching is one of my greatest passions and natural strengths.

When in doubt – go get drunk for 30 days

Learning about wine was one of my many experiments in constantly searching for things that I feel make my time more worthwhile and conversation-worthy.

If you can’t quite seem to find what makes you happy in your work or life, give yourself a flow test, you may be surprised what it tells you about yourself.

Image – Fosmiling

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Dorian December 4, 2012 at 4:20 am

Hey Alex,

You tease :-) Did you really get drunk for 30 days? lol. You are too funny.

I’m doing an experiment myself right now. I guess you could call it testing.

One day a friend and I were discussing religion. She’s a Protestant. To make a long story short, she doesn’t believe that Mormons are Christians. This made me somewhat annoyed because I went to school with many Mormons and they’re very good, noble people. So I decided to find out for myself.

I’ve decided to visit the Mormon church and ask them about their beliefs. The reason being is that I think they’re very skilled at outreach and networking. Theology aside, I think many of their values instill hard work ethic which ultimately leads many of their members to business success.

I also know that there’s many misconceptions and stereotypes people give Mormons and I wanted to get to know some of them personally, and see how their faith impacts their lives.

I think you’re right about learning from experiences and trying things you normally wouldn’t do. It gives you topics to write about and lessons to share with others. You become more informed and learn to find out THE FACTS for yourself and not rely on THE OPINION of others.

BTW: what other businesses have you started online? I’m curious because you seem like a really analytical/philosophical guy(me being the same way). Do you find it hard to write about niches such as weight loss or make money online topics? I love discussing self improvement, history, philosophy.If you want to make part time income online, I’m not sure how you’d profit off those topics.

TTYL bro

Reply

Alexander Heyne December 4, 2012 at 11:18 am

Hey Dorian —

Hahaha A little bit ;) I tried a bunch of wines each night to compare and stuff.

I agree 100%, passing out the facts rather than your opinions and beliefs is in short supply. If you ask me, people need to spend much more time testing and verifying things before passing them on.. there is too much misinformation.

Re: my past history —

Hah yeah I’m a pretty analytical guy too, but no those topics don’t bother me. I much prefer self improvement (and it is a big niche), but I also have a long history in the weight-loss muscle-gain industry, and have been a weightlifter for a long-time. But making money online is another topic that I don’t really talk about… just because I haven’t made a whole lot of money online.

Self improvement is in the big 5 for most profitable (and popular) niches, you’d just have to be creative with how you want to make money :)

Sometimes you just gotta suck it up and do something you aren’t crazy about right now — because it will LEAD you to something you are crazy about down the line. That was a hard knock that I didn’t like. But it’s a truth.

Best,
Alex

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Dorian December 4, 2012 at 10:08 pm

My Dad owns a vineyard…if you want me to send you some wine…ha ha.

I’m working on a weight loss product right now myself. It’s a premium PLR I’ll be rebranding.

Also, if you need any guest posts let me know. I’d do it for free of course, as I need the experience writing. I can have you look over it and see what you think. Just let me know. Maybe you have a topic in mind.

I’m still in the process of setting up my blog and it should be done by the end of the week(crossing my fingers)….as I’m trying to follow your mantra “RESULTS RULE.” lol

After this product is finished I’m going to jump into video production.

I think you should make a video to introduce yourself :-)…just an idea.

Reply

Alexander Heyne December 7, 2012 at 10:50 am

Hahah I could use some free wine anyday!

Yeah man I’ll keep that in mind! Let me know how your product goes too — and definitely gauge everything by your results and not time invested.

I used to spend 3 or 4 hours working (or burning time at a dayjob) and would be so happy at the end of the day “Yeah! I worked for 6 hours on my own thing” without even paying attention to how much I got done.. It’s kind of an easy excuse to slack or just get on social media if you aren’t results-focused.

Sweet man, what are you getting into video production for? I like the idea…

Oh and I’ll definitely get an intro video, you aren’t the first that told me but I’m just a slacker these days ;)

Reply

Aaron Black December 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm

“The actual lifestyle experiments themselves turned out to be much more valuable than my many thousands of hours thinking things through. Test.”

I led a Lean Startup meetup group for about a year. It’s all about minimal viable product testing. 65 members were in the group. I ended the group a year in when I realized the members only liked planning and talking about their business ideas, not trying them out.

“…regularly give himself flow tests to constantly improve his efficiency and find out what activities obviously weren’t doing it for him, and which activities naturally made him feel happy and motivated.”

When I was stuck in a rut trying to figure out what to do with my life I started writing again, just as a way to make sense of things. One day while writing I felt like I was in a trance, the words pouring from my fingers. I’d written for hours without even thinking about it. Wondering about this experience I stumbled across the idea of flow. I knew then what I was called to do.

Thanks for the post, flow rules.

Reply

Alexander Heyne December 7, 2012 at 10:57 am

Hey Aaron —

I had the EXACT same experience as you. I’ve led masterminds, joined masterminds, started Meetup.com groups, etc. People are the same everywhere, ESPECIALLY novice entrepreneurs. All talk and very little game.

I didn’t even continue for the year — about 3 months in I ended up stopping it, it was just a waste of time. I’ve since realized that this resistance, this starter’s inertia, is incredibly hard to overcome for most (and was for me too), so if you do meet up with people it’s important to pre-screen them to see if they’re biased towards action.

Definitely with you on that…

Haha flow does rule! I write a LOT about flow here, there are probably 5+ posts about flow.. let me see if I can dig some up for you:

How to Learn Any Skill 2x Fast in Half the Time -- http://milkthepigeon.com/2011/08/13/how-to-learn-any-skill-2x-as-fast-in-half-the-time-making-greatness-pt-1/

Part 2: http://milkthepigeon.com/2011/08/21/learning-any-skill-2x-as-fast-in-half-the-time-making-greatness-pt-2/
Part 3: http://milkthepigeon.com/2011/09/12/how-to-learn-any-skill-twice-as-fast-in-half-the-time-pt-3-intent/

If your work sucks, learn about flow: http://milkthepigeon.com/2011/07/29/if-your-work-doesnt-follow-the-principles-of-flow-you-may-be-in-trouble-flow-part-1/

Reply

Aaron Black December 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Alexander,

Thanks for the post links, will check them out. Glad I am not alone in my experience with meetup groups. It was a kick in the gut, moved on, learned something about life. It was worth it. Not everyone has that inertia or activation energy. Sometimes I think I’ve got too much of it.

Thanks again.

-Aaron

Mike December 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Though I’m happily ensconced in a career that I’m enjoying for at least four more years, the primary reason I’m blogging and trying things out is mainly to keep searching for that next thing. I’m convinced my sense of urgency would be greater were I unemployed and not in a job that I enjoy, but I think the simple act of continuing to put things out there must be valuable.

And I’ve had three inquiries about advertising on my site this month, so all of these little milestones seem important, even if they are a drop in the bucket financially!

Great post, as usual!

Reply

Alexander Heyne December 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Hey Mike!

Hey man that’s totally respectable to always be looking for that next thing, it’s self evolution! Yep, I also agree with you that the feeling of urgency would be much greater. It’s always fun to try new stuff and get in uncharted waters though ;)

Hey man, well at least some advertising is better than none right? Maybe you can find a way to turn that drop into a bucket into a glassful…

Reply

Erin December 7, 2012 at 8:25 pm

This is a positively fascinating idea. I’m starting to get a sense of where I want to head with things on the work front, but I know I spend a lot of time poking around with stuff that doesn’t light me up. The idea of flow has been on my radar for a long time, and I definitely know of a few places where I can get into it without really trying, but I would love to find more and then build what I do around them as much as I can. Thanks :)

Reply

Alexander Heyne December 10, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Hey Erin !

Haha I thought it was pretty cool when I read about it myself! I totally had to try it, so as one of my “30 day skills” I decided to do this. It always made me curious. And the cool thing is that whenever you’re in a life phase where things aren’t goin well, you can always do another flowtest to see what’s not bringing you flow. It’s fun too!

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Sarah December 10, 2012 at 6:10 pm

I am very pleased to have contributed to this in a positive way (re: the AMA speech.)

This sounds like a great idea – there’s an exercise quite a bit like this in the Unlost Guide, but we were recording our activities at the end of the day. This seems like it would give even more accurate feedback. I’m going to give it a shot! (Note… someone should create an APP for this…. *nudge, nudge*)

Reply

Alexander Heyne December 10, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Haha yeah you definitely are Sarah! That was an awesome opportunity.

I read these specific instructions in Dan Pink’s book originally, and really wanted to give them a go. Haha I would love to create an app for this.. and just might.. it’s a 2.5k investment though ;) I’ll ponder it.

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Cody October 30, 2013 at 5:35 pm

This is a great thing for me right now! Thanks for the right up. Question: How exactly would you define being ‘in flow’? I am thinking it is something you just know. And maybe that’s why you omitted that- it is a different, but shared feeling, for each individual. Thanks for your candor and the willingness to provide some guidelines!

Reply

Alexander Heyne November 3, 2013 at 3:51 am

Hey Cody,

Woops, you’re right! I didn’t mention the feeling of flow itself.

There’s a great write up here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)#Conditions_for_flow

Alex

Reply

Cody October 30, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Oh my- I just woke up from a nap. The WRITE* up. I’ll just go now…

Reply

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