The Search Mode

11 minutes reading time

One of the ways to learn about yourself and the world is the so-called “search mode”. The better you know yourself and your environment, the better you can execute, and consequently achieve your true goals that much faster.

In order to get to know yourself and your environment, as well as build up an adequate life strategy, you have to first do enough searching, experimenting and trying, since all that leads to understanding and insights. Based on that, you can start executing and making sound decisions.

As you can see in many action movies, when the super team steps into action, the first order they always get from their command officer is “Gather intel”.

In the search mode, you make assumptions and test different options. In the execution mode, you constantly perform and optimize what you preserve from the search mode.

There are two main reasons why you want to introduce the search mode into your life:

Wrong assumptions are the mother of all fuckups and execution based on wrong assumptions means nothing but failure, sorrow and obstacles. Reality (the objective reality) is significantly different from your assumptions and your own interpretation of reality (the subjective reality). You want to come as close to the objective reality as possible.

The difference between what you think is valuable to you and what really is valuable to you in your life creates waste. One of your tasks when living an AgileLeanLife is to eliminate all waste by finding out what really brings value for you. You don’t want to live life based on wrong assumptions of what you like or expectations of other people.

You learn three important things in the search mode:

You learn about yourself

You learn about yourself as a person, what you want in life, your true desires, fears, who you are and where your talents lie, your current capabilities and so on.

You want to get a very clear picture of who you are and what you want.

You learn about your environment, the world and the society

We all live our own lives as well as the common destiny of the world and the smaller environments we live in (country, company…).

In the search mode you experiment in order to learn the basics of how the world works, how people behave (from the aspect of biology to the aspect of psychology), and so on. You learn how to build an environment that supports you and how you can create as much value as possible for other people.

You learn how to build an environment that supports you and how you can create as much value as possible for other people.

You learn about the markets

Markets always win. You don’t want to play against the market. Therefore you want to understand the trends and movements on the market, be it the labor market, the dating market, financial markets etc. Markets are like turbo accelerators on your car. They can help you advance really fast.

But first you have to learn how to drive a car, which means learning enough about the previous two points.

The better you understand all three, the greater the potential you unlock in your life. Therefore in an AgileLeanLife, you have to divide all activities of all areas of life into two groups:

Here are some additional reasons for why you need the search phase before doing any real execution:

  • To do adequate research and form first assumptions about yourself and life
  • To conduct small experiments and figure out what your best personal fits are
  • To not put pressure on yourself to achieve and do something that’s not really you
  • To have fun and try as many things as possible
  • To set a realistic execution strategy that you can follow and really implement

Once we become adults we assume that the time for searching, exploring and learning is over. But that is a completely wrong approach. You should never stop experimenting and learning about yourself and the world.

No goals, just learning

In the search mode, you shouldn’t have any expectations, you shouldn’t make any commitments and you shouldn’t do any hard work. Expectations lead to and before you understand something, your expectations are definitely completely wrong.

Commitments lead to heavy energy investments, and you shouldn’t be investing before you know what you are truly investing in and whether the investment really fits your character. Hard work should always also be smart work, but you can’t work smartly if you don’t have the right map and coordinates.

In the search phase, you just try, experiment, observe, reflect and learn about yourself and the world. The most important thing in this phase is to have no fixed ideas and no expectations at all.

Your job is only to test the assumptions you have written down, correct them, and try different things in order to find out what suits you best This phase is only for learning about yourself and the world. No goals. No measurement of progress. Just learning and playing.

After you find your fit in the search phase, you start executing. You set a big vision, strong foundations, have laser focus, commit fully, start working hard and achieving your goals. You optimize, improve and measure your progress. But first, you have to find the right thing. You must put the ladder against the right wall before you start climbing.

It doesn’t make sense to set deadlines for being skinny and fit until you understand your body, metabolism, your favorite sports, what kind of a diet suits you best etc. It doesn’t make sense to make deadlines for being rich if you don’t have enough financial knowledge, don’t know how to increase your earning potential and which financial investments suit you best etc.

It doesn’t make sense to make plans for getting married after a second date, when you don’t even know the person next to you and how you two function together.

Before making any real execution plan you should learn, talk with people, try different things, test, experiment and write down your insights. After that you will be able to execute perfectly.

You have to do it scientifically

The search mode is all nice and fun with the right approach (it can be scary but more about that later). There is one big catch, however. You have to do it scientifically and systematically.

No goals, no pressure, just discovery, but you have to make sure that you are really learning about yourself and the world. Learning can become an easy excuse for failure. And you don’t want to fail.

If you have learned something new, you haven’t failed in the search mode. If you haven’t learned anything new, you’ve failed big time and wasted resources on top of that. But how do you know whether you’ve learned something new or not?

Very easily, namely by setting and testing hypotheses. We call that validated learning. Let’s look at an example.

You want to get in better shape. The formula for getting in shape is pretty easy. You have to eat less, the food has to be of higher quality, and you have to exercise more. No greater secret. But there are many ways for doing that. Based on knowing yourself, you start making some assumptions and then testing them.


Practical examples

Example of assumptions about exercising

H1: I prefer individual sports over team sports. I will try two individual and two team sports. (Validated)

H2: The individual sports that suit me best are fitness, running and boxing. I will also try crossfit, golf, judo and hiking.

(Validated – with one exception: I like hiking more than boxing)

H3: Since I’m in bad shape, it’s enough if I start exercising two times per week. I will try to do it three times for the first time and see how it feels.

(Rejected – I can work out three times per week without a problem. Will try four times after one month)

H4: I will make better progress with a personal trainer and I have the money to afford it.

(Validated – Personal trainers show me how to do exercises right and boost my motivation. After two months, I will see how well I work alone, following a new program prepared by a personal trainer)

H5: My motivation is better if I have a pairing buddy to work out with.

(Rejected – Scheduling, talking, drinks after the workout, it’s not really helping me)

H6: I now have enough knowledge to set serious goals about my fitness progress. I will make a 3-month program and measure how I am doing.

(Rejected – I need more time to adjust my body to exercising. I will enjoy it without any serious goals. Will try again after three months).

It’s more or less the same with dieting assumptions (or any other for that matter). You have to see your body’s reaction to cutting down calories, decreasing the consumption of sugar, finding the veggies that you like the most etc. For some people, eating at night is a catastrophe, for others it’s no big deal. After a few months of experimenting, you will find the right diet for you, the right activities and after that you can do some fine-tuning and additional adjustments.

The main point is to write down what you have learned (especially when doing reflections). That way you won’t feel like you’re running in place but you will see your progress. You will also focus on things that work.

Finding the right fit will enable you to really change your lifestyle and become healthy in the long term, not just go on a diet and gain back all the weight afterwards, according to the yo-yo effect.

After searching and trying and finding the right fit, changing your lifestyle is fun and easy. That is what the search phase is all about; getting excited about the changes that you will make in your life and finding the right things that will not lead to a loss of motivation after only a few weeks.

But you have to do it gradually and scientifically to some extent.

The Search Mode

Your life is like a puzzle you have to build

By knowing what you want, how the world works and what markets need, you can put together all the pieces of life that suit you best, and build the right strategy. You can compose your masterpiece life puzzle, your dream life.

Your job in the search mode is to find the perfect diet for yourself, the best career to serve the world and provide real value for it, the relationships that empower you the most, the best computer operating system for you (or whatever), the things that you enjoy the most in life, and so on.

What suits you best may be a waste for someone else. And vice versa. You have to search for what fits you best.

There are four more goals you have to achieve in the search phase besides validated learning:

Acquiring the best knowledge possible

The rule of an AgileLeanLife is to go straight to the best knowledge there is and then adjust it to your life. For every life area, there are only a few key points you have to know and master, and then practice them regularly.

To go straight to the top, you have to learn and mirror the people at the top. You can easily get lost in crappy content in today’s post-information age.

Setting strong foundations

The bigger the skyscraper you want to build, the stronger you need to make the foundations. Implementing the best knowledge into your life requires extraordinarily strong foundations.

You set a strong foundation by making small linear changes and then accumulating them into rapid big changes or quantum leaps. The key principle of the AgileLeanLife is to really master a few things that are the building blocks of strong foundations.

You can build your skyscraper floor by floor on that. Strong foundations mean nothing else but mastering yourself and your environemnt.

You won’t get more fit if you can’t skip dessert and exercise a few times per week. You won’t get rich if you don’t learn to increase your earning potential and spend less than you earn. You won’t find your dream career if you are obsessed with a current secure job.

Setting strong foundations means mastering yourself and you can do that in the search mode by testing and experimenting and consequently building up your will and stamina (being in the search mode means handling uncertainty).

Preparing a plan for execution and daily application

When you find your fit in the search mode, you have to start making a shift into the execution mode. For the execution, you need discipline to perform daily tasks that lead you to your goal. Search mode should help you get insight into how fast you can progress and what realistic expectations are.

In AgileLeanLife practices, you execute in intervals (sprints) and after every sprint you make a reflection and adjust the plan. Your first execution plan when going from the search into the execution mode will be the worst and you have to be aware of that.

Thus you need to make constant adjustments to your plan during regularly scheduled reflections. Learn more how to organize yourself with to-do lists.

Interacting with other people

In the search phase, you should interact with people who have achieved the same things you want to achieve as well as with people who have views totally different from your own. Talk with them, try to understand them.

Try to walk a mile in their shoes. Imagine your life and your decisions if you were to live with those kind of values. Broaden your horizons and test things that don’t come naturally to you. That approach will help you manage your own expectations and expectations of others in life.

The search phase is the phase of constant tests and experiments. The really big problem is that testing is not your natural state, because it lacks security, because it contains the unknown. Trying something new can be scary from time to time.

But you know you need guts to live an amazing life. Nothing worthwhile in life comes easily. In the search phase, you have to constantly keep trying out something new, fail over and over again, and do things that you haven’t mastered yet. As already said, that is scary.

But it can also be fun. If you are consciously in the search mode and you carefully define your downsides and upsides, shape an adequate strategy and focus on validated learning rather than on the outcome, then the search phase becomes the fun life experience all in itself.

A big plus of today’s world is that you can experiment without risking your life or lives of others (in most cases; and where such kind of danger exists, you should avoid it). There is no lion behind the corner that’s going to eat you if you try new ways. You have the tools, knowledge and examples. Thus it’s time for you to start scientifically and systematically testing and learning about yourself and the world.

Every test should be seen as a life experience, part of your life vision. After performing the test, you should know more about yourself, the world and the society. In some cases even about the markets. If something new works for you, great. If it doesn’t, you should discard it and look for clues on which experiment to do next. That’s called pivot.

There are two main goals for testing and experimenting in the search phase:

  1. Looking for your best fits so you can start building your dream life
  2. Trying, experimenting and testing more and more new things, so you can not only improve but also experience as much as possible. Testing and experiencing new things is the best way to not live a dull and routine life.

The sum of all desired experiences is the vision of your life. You should have a list of potential ideas and constantly brainstorm for new ideas and possibilities. You can choose priority experiments for every interval.

In order to test as many things as possible the concept of Minimum Viable Experience can help.

Reflection in the search mode

After every experiment you do in the search phase, you have to make a reflection. That is the most valuable part of the process. Before marking a hypothesis as validated or rejected, you should ask yourself about what you have learned, what you will test next, how you will change your plans, and so on. A search mode without deep and systematic reflection has very little value.

You learn about yourself by reflecting on your actions. Reflection is an insight into knowing yourself and life better. Never forget that reflection is actually an insight into how to do things in a better way. Therefore if you want to be more successful, effective and efficient, you have to find better ways to do things for you personally, by experimenting and reflecting.

You should also remember that insights only come to a relaxed and rested mind that’s prepared to think about the experience that had happened.

Never stop searching for new ways

You never know whether you’ve reached your local maximum in life and where other, even bigger maximums are. That is why you should constantly be in the search mode, even when you had already switched to the execution mode and vice versa. It’s just the emphasis that’s different.

Local maximum

Achieving local maximum. But is there a higher hill to climb?

In the search mode, you make assumptions and test different options. In the execution mode, you constantly perform and optimize what you preserve from the search mode. But even when executing, you should test new things from time to time. And in the search mode, you are already doing execution in a way.

For the end, another important thing. Because all living beings, including you, don’t like change by nature, you should not implement too many experiments and changes at once. From the macro perspective, the whole search mode must be limited to the point at which you can still measure what’s happening with your life, what works for you and what doesn’t.

Our willpower is a weak muscle, thus all experiments and changes should be made in a systematic and controllable way. And you should have as much fun as possible on the way.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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