Someone shared this image with me of a pigeon’s nest. I don’t know if this accurately reflects the average pigeon’s nest. I didn’t google it. That isn’t the point I took away from the image. The point I took away is that for an onlooker – like me – this nest looks like a failure. For the pigeon, it seems like a success. Success for me is when I learn.
I know many of my experiments look like a failure when folks look at them. Sometimes, they look like a failure — after some time passes — even to me. And I have to remind myself that because that experiment I know how to ______________________ (weld, plumb, research, cite, whatever). Success is when you learn.
Now that I have this image, I’ve got a reminder that what might look like a failed experiment might, in fact, be a success because I learned.
For many years, I got to know catastrophically injured people as their lawyer. What I mean by catastrophically injured people is people whose bodies were mangled when they were run over by 18-wheeler trucks, or people whose bodies were crushed when they were surprised by a construction defect or people who were burned over most of their body. Catastrophic.
What I mean by “got to know” is that over months or years, I was honored that clients shared their lives with me – and let me share my life with them. Part of this sharing was that I got to watch them heal or not heal over time.
A clear observation that I made over time was the clients who admitted to drinking alcohol healed slower. Clients who admitted to tobacco use did not heal.
“D” at Redemptive Cycles was good enough to talk with me about what I am imagining for the Worksman Trike. I’m calling this experiment the “Worktryke.”
I understand that this trike was used in the Fairfield Still Works. This seems like a good experiment for Birmingham, Alabama. Take something from Birmingham’s past and modernize it for 2021. This trike certainly has good bones. It is officially a Worksman Model U tricycle manufactured by the Worksman Cycles Company, Inc. in Ozone Park, NY. This company is the oldest bicycle manufacturer in the United States.
Conceptually, I imagine several upgrades to make this trike more useable for use in the city (as opposed to in a covered still mill). The trike was designed to carry a lot of weight, slowly. It would be useful to carry weight, but for urban use the trike has to move faster and not trap rain in the front tray. Moving faster may mean better brakes. Here is a bullet list of possible upgrades
Electric motor drive
Brakes to accommodate the faster speed
Windbreak to cover tray (maybe with a solar feature)
The next step seems to be to reach out to a metal fabricator and see what options there might be for adding tabs on the front and left right so that there would be a place to bolt the part of the disk brake that pinches the disk and slows the trike.
Today, I divide my work up into experiments and projects. I attribute this concept to Neville N. Medhora. I wish he had taught me sooner.
When I was growing up I was always puzzling on something – usually something way beyond my reach – to figure out. I took apart any electric or electronic device that I got my hands on. I wanted to know what was inside, what made them work. Sometimes, I got them back together. My dad called it piddling, which I heard to mean failure. Looking back, it was not failure at all. It was exerimenting and even when I couldn’t get something back together or make it work again, the expermient was not a failure. Nor was it pathetically trivial or trifling (the actual meaning of piddling). To some degree it was a success because the intention was to puzzle and learn and I did.
So, today I break my work up into experiments and projects. The intention and end of an experiment is to puzzle on something and learn.
Projects are different. Once I classify something as a project, the intention is a finished deliverable, by a deadline, under budget. Projects are the “get after it” portion of my life.
This differentiation has helped me because I can now experiement without the stress of a budget or a deadline. I am experimenting for the sake of learning. Sometimes I can just take something apart, see what makes it work, and not even try to put it back together. I’m learning.
But once I classify something as a project, it has to get done and it has to work.
For me, that is the difference between an experiment and a project.