In 2014, Max Hawkins started an experiment that many people would find insane. At the time, Max lived in San Francisco and worked as a software engineer at Google. He got to eat wonderful food, drink artisanal coffee, and work in a place he loved, with interesting people and engaging projects that challenged his creativity. And then, one day, Max was hit by a thought. He realized that we live in loops and habits, and we continue to run those loops and structure our lives around what came before. Max was living in a reality bubble, and every repetition of what he’d done before reinforced that bubble’s edges. It had been a great bubble, but the awareness of it, for Max, began to feel confining, stifling. It was time for a change.
Max used Facebook’s Graph Search feature to seek out public activities that had been posted in San Francisco, whether those were business meeting, social meetups, classes, or parties. He used his computer knowledge to build an app that would randomly select an item from the list of events pulled from Graph Search, and wherever the app said, he would go. The selections were truly random, in that the app was not coded to prefer one event over another, or one group over another. Max found himself at networking events for Russian young professionals, acro yoga, salsa dancing, open houses, a breakfast club for gay and bisexual men in Iowa. At every event, he knew no one present, and when asked how he found that event, he told his story. Sometimes he was met with confusion, but more often with amusement and delight. That first Christmas, Max did not go home to visit with family, but found welcome with strangers, singing holiday songs. One of the random places the app sent him to was a bar in an industrial neighborhood, where there was a decidedly hostile atmosphere. Nonplussed, Max began speaking with one of the patrons about casual topics, like music and relationships. An hour and a half later, Max had a new friend, and invitation to hang out if he found himself in the area again.
In leaving his reality bubble behind, Max was able to find new experiences and encounters with others that challenged and stretched his ways of thinking, the habits that had run him into a rut. If you find yourself on a new patch of ground, with no pathways carved into it, it becomes easier to avoid the patterns that ran you into learning problems in the past. Now, you don’t need a fancy application to manage your life, telling you where to eat, sleep, or live. You can begin to extend the boundaries of your bubble by breaking those rigid habits and routines. Where is a restaurant you would never normally go? Or a class you wouldn’t normally take? Success breeds success, and the act of intentionally breaking those patterns, habits, beliefs will tune your mind to find new ways to approach old problems.
What opportunities will I find awaiting me by taking just a half step outside my bubble?