Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On "Untangling Skill and Luck"

Dudes, my wife and I have been trying to have kids and it's not exactly working out yet.  It sucks, but it is what it is.  During one day when it really seemed to start bothering me, I got the cheesy idea to start writing down some of the stuff that I hope I would be able to teach my child.  The below is taken from last weekend's musings, and so try to appreciate the tone as parental, because that's how it's intended.  This post would probably have never seen the light of day, but an article in the Harvard Business Review by Michael J. Mauboussin hit the retweet circuit today called Untangling Skill and Luck and the timing seemed ... lucky.

My thoughts:

It always feels like something awesome is about to happen.

By viewing the world through a lens of optimism we attain a hopefulness that cannot be overstated in psychological value.  The counterparts to blind optimism include diligence, patience, ethics, and a humble indifference to the final result.  Trading has taught me that opportunity presents itself every day.  To achieve success I must seek it, and to seek it, I must get in the way of it.

Diligence builds confidence by following facts to logical outcomes.  We can plan for, but not foresee every outcome and for this reason we must accept that humanism affects outcomes in ways dynamic, not disappointing.  As I said before, disavowing the desire to control one’s reality must come before the mentally destabilizing temptation to second guess a choice that did not result in the logical and favorable outcome.  Surprises work both ways.  Through preparation we hope to mitigate negative surprises and become exposed to greater volumes of positive ones.  Though an outsider might view this as being serially lucky, work precedes luck in most cases.  Humbly accepting and learning from every outcome adds texture to a fulsome body of experience from which to draw in future endeavor.

Patience as an extension of the choice to relinquish control means recognizing timing.  Execution backed by diligence will, at times, place you at odds with overwhelming pressure to conform to the status quo.  In order to stand resolutely, unwaveringly against these buffeting winds you must have the self-confidence to trust in your work.  You must also be humble enough to realize that you may not be right and act accordingly if the diligence was flawed.  You must also accept that the primal-human herding instinct can put you in the position of being wrong before you are right.  Proper timing is the goal, exact timing is luck, and patience places luck in the category of optimistic expression.

No man can survive in a human world alone.  A baby without its mom, a player without a team, an entrepreneur without ethics, these do not work.  We must always care for one another, not because we may need them in the future, but because it is in our nature to be networked.  Our world as a house of cards built by acts of goodwill can be ruined easily by the ill-intent of a few.  Good things happen in houses constructed of goodwill.  Take joy in the construction because our example can be felt by those around us.  Do not let the misguided decisions of unaffected parties retrograde your higher order choice to act with righteousness when no one else is watching.

One time I read a study that compared the human attention span to water in a bucket.  The water is easily divided into smaller buckets, or into one smaller bucket and several glasses, the point being that maximum focus is pre-set, and distractions inherently deduct from attention and capability in other areas.  Ruining relationships, causing ill-will, and acting with malice may be seem reasonable in a time of heightened emotion, but they are seldom productive, as going against our nature to be networked draws thought, even if we don't realize it.  Regret and hatred draw attention that is better spent in wholesome pursuits.  Aim to be an example of someone who others would like to know while respectfully ignoring those whose petty indiscretions mire our capacity to produce great things.

Human complexity means never fully understanding a situation.  Accept this limitation while striving for detailed knowledge of rudimentary metaphysics.  Every day we create history on the blank canvas of the present.  Every day we face entropy, disaster, and chaos.  Through diligence, patience, ethics, and humility, every day we can create the opportunity for something awesome to happen.