There is no difference between a pessimist who says, “Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother to do anything,” and the optimist who says, “Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine anyway.” Either way, nothing happens. — Yvon Chouinard
This morning I read a very excellent essay from Steve Pavlina about the “action bias” — the tendency to act in the face of change. Pavlina argues that action is a strong predicator of success, but only when coupled with commitment.
This mirrors a change I’m undergoing right now. For the first part of the year I was getting my sea legs, but now I’m getting antsy and I’m ready to shake things up. It just goes to show: To everything its season.
Turn, turn, turn
Steve musters a good argument in favor of action. I prefer action to waiting, simply because it gives me something to do, as well as the potential to influence the outcome. We call that proactivity, taking the initiative. It’s generally considered a Good Thing.
But he gives considerable time to the opposite view: Inaction.
Do you feel your life is about 95% where you want it to be? Would you be delighted to maintain your current situation? Do you feel your momentum is taking you down a wonderful path? If so, you may wish to favor the processes in the first group. Talk yourself out of taking action when you feel the risk of upsetting the status quo is too great. You may not experience as much personal growth on this path, but there’s no rule that says you have to. If you’re very happy and fulfilled where you are, it’s fine if you want to coast and enjoy that for a while. You can always shift gears later.
He still comes up strongly in favor of action, though. The main thrust of the argument?
Ask yourself, “What are the realistic worst-case consequences if my idea fails to work?” In many cases you’ll have to admit that in the grand scheme of things, the negative consequences just aren’t a big deal. You may make them a big deal in your mind, but are people going to lose their lives if you make an honest mistake? Taking action is rarely fatal these days. You can screw up a lot, recover, and keep right on going.
If you favor an action bias in the long run, you’re more likely to experience greater long-term success. (emphasis mine)
I have to say, I’m feeling him.
Fail Fast, Fail Often
Ramit Sethi wrote, “I have a tab in my email account titled, “failure” and if I’m not regularly adding that tag to different things I’m working on with the blog, partnerships, or testing… I know I’m doing something wrong.”
I’m also reading 4 Hour Work Week, which advises relentless testing.
Now, I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl. I am a compulsive planner; I swear, I have more fun constructing and refining contingency plans and work-around than I have actually doing something — but when I actually do something, I know that the time for planning is over, and I just wing it.
But this whole do, do, do exhortation is resonating with me. I thought it would really fall flat. I felt like it was an implacable over-processing, and inexorable quest for perfection — so not how I roll.
But it’s really more than that– it’s an ever-present sense of wonder and curiousity that seeks to push the limits of what we ‘know’. And that sounds like a helluva lot of fun.
So, my little sparkplugs, I’m going to start trying things out, just for size. I know we’ve got a great little spot just to chill here, but I’m up for some adventure. Who’s with me?
What’s the worst thing that can happen? My ideas will flop, and we’ll all have a little chuckle. Best case, though? I have fun, and even better, I instigate you guys to do the same.
Did I say anything original or deep in this post? Not at all. In fact, you could argue that I’m fairly dense. (How long has 4HWW been out? Three years?) But hey, whatever. I finally got it. And it’s going to be good times going forward. So I thought I’d see if anyone wanted to join me.
PS: Anyone want to argue the other side? Make a comment (or hey, offer a guest post! Fun!)