To provoke risk and anxiety I will brainstorm the sorts of experiments I would be inclined to carry out or to see carried out. To introduce an incentive, you can leverage one of a few effective tactics mentioned here.
Rapid project development.
Execute a product, project, tool, or service under time pressure. This can involve some pet project you’ve been entertaining for some time or a moment’s inspiration. Intuitively determine what time frame sounds realistic and then shrink that to beneath your comfort zone. Leverage external resources. Ask/plead for help if need be. Minimize the scope if necessary. This is natural during project development. From personal experience in academia or career I know such deliverables really reinforce your strength and endurance. Now imagine the experience under your own terms and convictions. I emphasize that it’s crucial to establish the incentive for meeting the deadline.
Rapid writing or performance art.
Time pressure can invoke creativity. Establish an uncomfortably short time frame for a piece of a respectable duration. Then write and present. Have a clear incentive for meeting the deadline. Also prepare the means to present your mediocre effort to some physical or virtual audience. That’s part of the incentive of producing something of higher quality. We’ve probably all done this but not necessarily under own terms.
I know improvisation groups occasionally organize 24-hour creativity sessions for producing multiple performances. The process includes writing, rehearsing, and presentation. I gained inspiration for this experiment from one such presentation.
I can’t speak from personal experience. But from research I know people launch really lean ideas to the public in an impressively short time frame (a week sometimes) using minimal resources and expenses. So expand upon #1 and package your idea that you (delusionally) believe could have potential. Make it public in the leanest sense. You may not allocate enough time for a fully functional web site, but construct a beta version or some means to function and communicate with potential clients. Anticipate for this in your scope. You may not even have conducted any market research to determine the viability of your idea unless you’ve been working on this for some time. You can probably conduct some research in parallel. But it is crucial that you really develop an initial minimal-effort, minimal-cost product such that when the startup fails, you haven’t invested too much time or resources but rather learned from it.
Alert: the ideas below get stranger.
Pick one floor in a shopping center. Then visit every shop and strike an authentic conversation with a store owner or employee. Since you still have extra energy, proceed to the next floor and repeat.
Interview 20 people about a chosen topic.
Per day. For a week. Offer to buy them coffee if desperate, but collect the receipts for tax deduction purposes against the startup you hopefully created in #3. Alternatively, collect their information to send them a free electronic version of the book you will self-publish based on this research.
After 140 interviews followed by a respective analysis you can arguably claim expertise in a narrow domain. Not bad for one week. (If you aim to empirically analyze your results, your interview would have to consist of maybe four/five questions maximum in order to generalize on this sample size. A few more if the answers are limited to a small handful of choices. A lot depends on the questions. Such is the curse of dimensionality.)
Entertain the frontier separating the acceptable from awkward. This deserves a separate post.
Organize a trip with hitchhiking as the sole means of transportation. Analyze the experience. How long was the wait before each pick-up? What about the traffic density? Weather conditions? Location specifics? What vehicle were you picked up in? Describe the driver. Any other peculiarities about the experience? Draw some empirical conclusions. (They’ll probably have small value unless you’ve accumulated vast experience in this. Again, curse of dimensionality.)
Such experiments have already been carried out, yes, but why not analyze any data that’s analyzable and introspect from a different angle?
A two-week solitary experience in the wilderness. Recruit a companion with prior experience in the first iteration if you prefer. But the goal is to ultimately transition to at least one such solitary experience. Document your thoughts and findings in rich detail.
Improvise rural travel and organize ad-hoc sleeping arrangements. I emphasize, improvise. Again, extensively document your experience.
Question and an answer
Why would I undertake one of these challenges?
Because you don’t have anything more meaningful in your life. And because you are inclined towards lazy and cowardly behavior. By you, I naturally mean me.
I believe many of these challenges train certain muscles that atrophy otherwise, but useful in many situations. The practice also strengthens your mental (and physical) endurance.
Be mindful that certain public acts of questionable nature can put the state of your mental health in question and provide grounds for immediate clinical detainment. In some countries. But I have not performed sufficient research in that respect. See the appendix for further thoughts.
By evolution, an average human being (categorized in the bulk of the bell curve) isn’t designed to act rationally when the rational act demands a probabilistic or game-theoretical analysis of a given strategy and the future outcome, especially when the utility of an action isn’t intuitively apparent. Similarly, emotional detachment from past choices in the course of making a present decision, although considered rational by economic theory, with difficulty finds reciprocation in practice. I have often encountered questionable remarks when analyzing own or others behavior in correlation with the law of sunk costs, for example, yet not faced much friction when discussing the raw concept.
Why do I mention this? If not already apparent, I consider entirely rational the intent to extract a delayed reward subtly hidden in the utility of performing one of the above experiments. The act, however, might be considered lunacy by the respective psychiatric association, and argumentation concerning evolution or game theory is unlikely to inspire sympathy.