The Power of Experimentation
Experimentation is the only reason I am able to run a successful business at the age of 15.
The art of experimentation has led me to so many new ideas, so many new people, and so many new experiences in this short life. When I was 7 years old, my sister introduced me to a video-sharing platform where rising stars were uploading their videos—at least, ones that were suitable for a 2nd-grader to watch. Seeing those guys being able to spread their message to others, I decided to make a video out of my own passion at the time, which was basketball.
I decided to make mixtapes of players that inspired me, like Allen Iverson, Nate Robinson, and (of course) myself. I learned to use SEO without even knowing what it was, I just studied what other YouTubers did with their tags and keywords and experimented every day to get to the top of the search results. Through a lot of videos that only were watched a thousand times or less, one video documenting the “Malice at the Palace” (a huge fight at an NBA game) garnered 500,000 views. I was amazed. I quickly learned to turn those viewers to subscribers and then grew my channel larger with mixtapes of myself with music in the background. This would eventually get my channel deleted for copyright reasons, but the whole experience showed me that as long as I immersed myself in what I was doing and learned the rules through trial and error, I would make it.
And trial and error is the right term for it. Over the next few years, my friend Daniel and I experimented with making money through playing apps, running software to automatically fill out surveys, and online marketing. In 8th grade we started YouTube channels around Rubik’s cubes, programming, and other ideas. I made one about creating thumbnails and channel art without any software that got 100,000 subscribers before being (yes, again) deleted for copyright reasons. When I saw the popularity of Air Jordan sneakers, I started writing bots to buy the shoes the moment they went on sale—since few humans could click fast enough to get them before they sold out. Then I resold the shoes for a profit. Then I gave the bots away on my YouTube channel with an affiliate link so I’d make $20 anytime someone bought a pair of Jordans. Then I started selling the bots for $5 apiece on my parents’ eBay account (this also got me in trouble, since eBay doesn’t allow selling software programs). Eventually I was able to point to all of this as a reason for my parents to let me start my own website using their accounts, and I’ve since created several successful (and a few unsuccessful) sites.
The key with trial and error is that over time you will understand what works and what doesn’t, and many times the same principles apply in different industries—if you’re in comedy, music, or sports, you will use the same methods to create an audience and convert them into customers. When getting feedback and continuing to iterate, you look at your competition. I used to click on every single page of a competitor’s website—the legal pages, the contact pages, everything. Just to see how it differed from site to site and how they got results and what they had to go through in order to maintain their businesses. The curiosity from experimentation will allow you to reap the benefits of understanding what other people go through and will help with your business as well as connecting with others.
The key principles to experimentation are: setting aside time each day to research and test something new, being genuinely curious enough to do the mundane tasks that nobody else does, and actually taking action and repeatedly trying and creating higher quality content until something hits. In time, trial and error will become trial and success.
Interested in reading 99 other stories just like this? Grab The Better Business book here.