Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Best Manual Assignment Speaker 21-Nov-2006

Speech #2: "Argue Well... With Yourself"

Spoke on how to dispute the negative thoughts you speak to yourself.

It was a good speech.

I learned that even though my speech was on being optimistic, the content contained too many negative examples and negative emotions.

Could have been more humourous and used more pauses.

I must try to get more speeches done, perhaps at other clubs.

Optimism vs Reality: The Stockdale Paradox

A very excellent excerpt from Stephen Shields blog during my research on Learned Optimism:

This concept is named after Admiral Jim Stockdale, the celebrated former Vietnam POW. When Jim Collins asked Stockdale who died in POW camp, Stockdale replied (as Collins reports),

"Oh, that’s easy,'" he said. "The optimists.”

“The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused, given what he’d said a hundred meters earlier.

“The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say,‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

Another long pause, and more walking. Then he turned to me and said, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” (from Good to Great, pp 83ff).

Jim Collins sets forth the principle that I believe fills out a more balanced view of optimism:

Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties

AND at the same time

Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

What is variable, then, is not the optimism, but merely whether it's short-term or long-term.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Plan This! (Lessons from The Game of Pool)

They say that if you want to make God laugh, show him your plans. A wise general said that your plans go out of the door once the first bullet is fired.

In a previous post, I wrote that planning triumphs over plain perseverence.

However, how do you plan a game of pool?

If we were to plan a game of pool using traditional project plannng techniques, more time would be spent drawing gantt charts, pert charts, detailing force angle calculations etc. And even then it would come to naught with just a stray shot. In theory if you planned a game of pool properly it would only take 9 shots to complete the game.

Only if the person playing the shots were a world class expert would he be able to do so, and even then only 30% of the time.

I observed this phenomenon while playing pool. I realized that there is a high amount of chaos in pool, and the skill varies amongst players. But sooner or later we all manage to pot all the balls.

The secret I believe is to pot one ball at a time and at most think 1-2 shots away but nothing more.

In a highly chaotic situation like life, we must prepare for chaos by living one day at a time. If we were to plan to pot all the balls perfectly in life, i.e. try to plan each day of our lives 5 years away, we would be under tremendous pressure. But the pressure is lifted when we just play one ball at a time.

Jesus said that we shouldn't worry about tomorrow. Yes planning is important, but if we were to worry, it should only be to accomplish what we have to today.

The next lesson I think is to keep on learning from each shot, learn how the balls move with each shot, how different potting situations come up to, the point of impact of the cue, how hard or fast we pot, the angle of impact and predicting where the ball will hit the sides and come up. We will never learn pool just by watching it. We must play it.

In the same way, we must learn to live life not just by watching (though observing other people's success and failures helps us) but also by doing.

The more we practice living life, the more skillful we are in handling the chaotic situations of life.

Life is not just planning but also of adaptation. Maxwell called his law the law of navigation not the law of planning.
Navigation involves both looking at maps and planning your route, logistics, etc. But it also involves adapting to the circumstances of the sea, the wind, the waves and the weather.