Monday, March 16, 2009

A level playing field

"Tactics are not the product of careful cold reason, that they do not follow a table of organization or plan of attack. Accident, unpredictable reactions to your own actions, necessity, and improvisation dictate the direction and nature of tactics. Then, analytical logic is required to appraise where you are, what you can do next, the risks and hopes that you can look forward too. The tactic itself comes out of the free flow of action and reaction, and requires on the part of the organizer an easy acceptance of apparent disorganization." - Saul Alinsky Rules for Radicals
This is one of the biggest problems with the way we educate. Because people have a natural aversion to putting themselves in stressful situations, they need to be forced into positions that are different and stressful, requiring a quick decision - something that lessens the stress of the moment in order to buy time to choose a strategy. This is one of the biggest reasons that job experience is so much more benefitial than just going to school, because you aren't always just given concrete assignments and due dates, but there is an ever-shifting playing field. This is the difference from being able to fly by the seat of your pants or always having to take timeouts to collect your thoughts.

Anyone can map out a strategy when everything is in order, but how do you get better at making the quick calls that have to be made when everything goes to shit? If Murphy's law is true, then why are we spending years in school practicing with a playbook that assumes order? Why not prepare for the eventual disorder, and maintain it when it starts to begin? The majority plan for what to do when things go right, so when things go to shit and change, who is going to be able to deal with it most effectively? People who have spent their lives on linear problems with due dates, or the ones who dealt with change and turmoil?

With everything, to truly succeed you need the background knowledge to be internalized, otherwise you can't react quicker than your "opponent", and you will eventually find yourself reacting to their moves. But if you build up a base of knowledge, you can push until both you and your opponent are flying by the seat of your pants, and if this is something you continually practice at, you will likely be more comfortable. This can be trained by anything, even things completely unrelated to what you intended it for. You can just be playing tricks on people to see how they react, or putting yourself in intensely new surroundings to free up your mind. But there is no reason to stick to the field that everyone else plays on, that only makes it that much harder to win.

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