Doing something once isn’t trying made me think about how we make something the best it can be by doing it many times.

I first realized this idea watching Claire from the Bon Appetit YouTube channel develop a recipe. The chefs in the test kitchen don’t make a dish once. When they are developing a recipe they do dozens of interactions of that idea.

These are people who have skills and understand the fundamental language of food. You can throw them in the woods with some ingredients and they can make delicious food in just one go. But that isn’t developing something.

Yet we newbies often think if we make a recipe we found on the internet once and it doesn’t taste good, that means it sucks.

Iterations is core of development. Its very definition is to do a thing many times. To try something and learn. To do something that worked again to improve it or make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

Here’s some tips to make your iteration more effective.

Change One Thing At A Time

Between iterations don’t make too many changes. I recently refined a recipie for low-carb bread. The first iteration I just followed the recipe. It was doughy, fell apart too easily, and wasn’t thick enough. I didn’t try to fix all of those at once. Instead I focused on doughyness. Reduced the water and tried again. Less doughy. Reduced the water again. Now it was baked all the way through. I went on to trying to fix the thickness.

Another reason to change things one at a time is things might be connected. This can cause false feedback. If I changed the water content and cooked it longer it might crumble more, but I wouldn’t know what was causing the change in crumble.

Also the connection might work for me. Maybe changing the water content to fix the doughiness might fix the crumble as well.


When you are iterating it is important to know exactly what you did. Anytime you change something write it down. Specifically.

What was the exact new amount of water after I changed it by decreasing it? If you don’t write it down you won’t be able to reproduce it. I once made a great balsamic vinegarette for a party, but I didn’t write down what spices I used, so I have no way to reproduce it.

Also write down the result you get from a test. “I changed X and the new version of Z”. For example, “I changed the water from 1 cup to 3/4 of a cup, and the bread was less doughy but still soft in the middle.”

When working on a recipe I also write down things to try. If you document the variables you are going to test, you’ve got options for your next test. If you try something you may get an idea to make it better in a future version. For instance while working on getting the bread less doughy, I thought it would be cool to put it in a round container instead of small loaf shaped container I was using. I added that to my try list. I didn’t change it because that is another variable.

I hope you don’t take this to just be about cooking. You can apply this distinction to all kinds of things. Writing, speeches, videos and all kinds of content. It is in a sense a scientific approach. Not quite that rigorous, but a meticulous way of making something better.

Hopefully the next time your “try” something once and don’t like it, you’ll think about this distinction and give it another go.

*If you really want to see iteration in recipe development check out the Bon appetit team come up with the perfect pizza.

Photo by Andy Chilton on Unsplash


Distinctions For Life Reading List

Here’s a selection of books that I’ve enjoyed a lot and could make a difference in your life. Pretty much in no particular order.

Contains many, many affiliate links. 🙂


Public Speaking




Back of Phone Wallet

I like leather things, so when I went looking for an iPhone case I looked for a leather one. I didn’t know this would change my life.

The one I liked had a wallet on the back. I don’t like cases with a flap on the front and never had storage on my case. This one had a wallet on the back. So I stuck a credit card in it.

That is incredibly useful. The truth is in modern society 90% of the time you are only going into your wallet for one of two things: your driver’s license or a credit card. Once you put those on your phone, your wallet doesn’t see as much use.

This is because our phones a super easy to get to. A lot of the time they are in our hands, because we’re in love. Wallets are getting sat on or buried in a purse.

So get a phone case that has something on the back where you can put a credit card and your driver’s license. You’ll save so much time.


Doing Something Once Isn’t Trying

To really know something you have to do it multiple times.

I had a friend once who was a massage therapist and he said you have to go to a particular therapist at least three times to know if they are right for you. Once isn’t enough, but that is exactly how we normally make that decision. It’s true of lots of things. We do them once and decide that isn’t for me, but that isn’t really trying.

No Quick Judgements

I don’t like coffee, but I read the Bulletproof Coffee book and was convinced it was actually health food for your brain. I now tell people, “I really tried it, but I just don’t like it.” I say ‘really tried’ because I didn’t just drink it once. I drank coffee every morning for a week, and it was a good high quality coffee.

There are a number of reasons to not make a judgement on just one try of something.

Low Quality

If this is the first time you are trying something for the first time, you are by definition a newbie at it. That means you don’t know what you are doing. Therefore you may not be using the best version of the thing you are trying.

For example a friend gave me a bottle of James Buchanan’s Special Reserve Scotch as a groomsman gift. I knew it was nice because my friend was a connoisseur and his bride’s family owned a chain of liquor stores. Problem was I don’t like whisky or scotch. I’ve been to a few Burns dinners in my time and the stuff was just nasty. I’m not someone who drinks just for the effect, it has to taste good.

I ended up taking the special bottle to a guys night so someone would drink it since I didn’t like scotch. For politeness I tried it. Wow. So now I drink scotch, but only really good scotch.

Lots of people hate tequila, but I’m convinced that is because most of the tequila people drink is shit. Here’s a tequila tip for you, only drink a Reposado or Anejo tequila. These are aged and generally a whole other level of smoothness and quality.

I’m not saying you will always like something, just because you properly try it. I don’t like coffee. I’ve tried coffee at hotels, people’s houses back before coffee was a gourmet thing. It tastes like dirt to me. That coffee wasn’t high quality.

Someone Could Be Having A Bad Day

If you only have one interaction with something, especially a service performed by humans, the other side might just be having a bad day. Or you might. That was one of the points my massage therapist friend made. The other was it can take a little while for the therapist to figure you out. Get to know your muscles and what works and doesn’t.

Your taste buds aren’t the same everyday. Your mood can be effectings how you think about things in general. There are lots of reasons this time might not be the right time to make a decision.

Newbies Suck

Another reason to try multiple times is that you are probably not very good at anything the first time. Back a long time ago I did a Distinction For Life video about how Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Poorly. The idea was if you want to get good at a new skill, you are going to have do it badly a lot of times.

No one sits down to write a novel for the first time and writes something worth reading. It is a core tenant that you first have to write a lot of shit before you get good. Even experienced say, your first draft is crap. Then you revise and refine it until you get something good. This is iteration, and the subject of another post.

This includes thing like exercise and sports. You are going to suck the first time you do it. And the second. And the third. The only way to get good it to do it over and over.

You are also going to feel awkward. Uncomfortable. Vulnerable. Frustrated. This doesn’t feel good and it is easy to let those feelings get the best of you. Don’t. Stick with it if it is important.

Ok, now you know there are lots of reasons something might not be good the first time you do it. Just remember, doing something once isn’t trying.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash


Ring on Keychain

I’m a little paranoid about losing my wedding ring. This means I pretty much leave it on 24/7. Sleep, shower, swim, other things that begin with a S. It never comes off.

But sometimes it has to. Working out is the one I think of right off the bat, but I know when I’ve had medical procedures they’ve had me take it off.

So how do I do this worry free?

I put my ring on my keychain.

Part of the reason we may lose a ring is because it is small. Putting it on your keyring makes it bigger.

Also you aren’t going anywhere without your car keys. Literally, because you can’t start your car.

Try this next time you need to take off that special ring.