This note is the seventh letter in the 104-days-of-summer-vacation series. You can also follow the full twitter thread here, and leave any thoughts and comments that might come up!
I hope you are doing well today. I want to bring up a little bit of quantum-thought that I’ve had in my mind for a while. Briefly, quantum-thought is the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in mind, simultaneously acknowledging both of them.
The piece of quantum-thought I have in mind are the following assertions:
- Being organized, having a plan, tracking OKRs, and moving towards a vision is the way to achieve things. This is a form of living in the future. See: you-get-what-you-measure and random-walks-are-sqrtn
- In a complex adaptive world, rational planning and control is a pipe dream, the alternative is to live in the present. Sense and respond.
These conflicting thoughts simultaneously advocate for highly planned goal-driven behaviour, and going with the flow. Today, I want share a solution to reconcile the two pieces of thought.
Plans are worthless, but planning is essential - Eisenhower
The value of a plan lies in the act and effort of planning: in doing so, you gain understanding about your client, the project’s goals and objectives, and the abilities of your team. Source
The reality that the world is complex, and a large part of things one might consider success, derives from luck. This is undeniably true, many plans tend to fail because of the unpredictable variables in problems at hand. But as Eisenhower eloquently put, plans are worthless but the act of planning helps a planner iterate and navigate towards the signals which indicate success.
In other words, plans help the planner iteratively determine if they are moving towards their vision. At the same time, they prepare the planner to receive any opportunities that come their way. While it is true that it is hard to predict what may come one’s way, the environment and the preparation of the planner is critical to determine the “luck surface area” of a planner.
Chance favors the prepared mind - Pasteur
Both Eisenhower and Pasteur offer the elegant solution to our quantum-thought, even in a complex world determined by luck, planning and preparation are still key to move towards a vision. We must spend time preparing to receive the gifts that the world sends our way, and the person who doesn’t plan pays the cost of missed opportunities.
This is a sort of anti-agency, the belief that true agency doesn’t exist, but agency must be exerted regardless. It’s better to drive with one hand on the steering wheel, than nothing at all.
So, dearest reader, please don’t let the tides of luck push you around today. Instead, let’s prepare together to receive the gifts that are surely on their way.
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster;
And treat those two impostors just the same;
Rudyard Kipling, If