Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Taking a Leap

In Stephen Downes' article about what you really need to learn, he covers predicting consequences of actions first. He uses the example of wanting to jump across a rock chasm. The culture of "The Secret" recommends visualizing success. That can be very helpful, however, you also need to visualize the consequences of failure and predict its probability. 

If I don't succeed in jumping the chasm, I will fall to my death. Given the consequences, it would be a good idea to get more info on the probability of failure. 

Can you jump the same distance on flat ground? You can use the Visor Trick ( to measure the same distance on the flat ground to the side of you. Jump the distance a sufficient number of times. Now decide whether it's worth trying.

The opposite situation can also be examined. You want to go into the ocean in the Florida Keys but you are afraid of sharks. You imagine yourself in the water and the lifeguard signals that there is a shark and you see yourself simply getting out of the water. 

Just to be sure you look at the probability of shark attacks in the Florida Keys compared to traffic fatalities: 18 non-fatal attacks in over 100 years. 19 car fatalities in Monroe County (Florida Keys) in 2011.

Think of a time when you had a failure that you could have avoided if you had thought it through. Think of a time when you didn't do something you wanted to do because you assumed that it was likely to fail when it probably wasn't.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Tack

When you are sailing against the wind, you pick a spot on the landscape to head for. That is not your final destination but you still focus on getting there. Then just when you are almost there and you know you can take advantage of the new angle of the wind, you change direction and head for a new point on the shore.

Solving a problem can work the same way. A good technique is to picture a solution and focus on achieving it. However you can't always know how that solution is going to work out. It is OK to change the picture when you get to a better vantage point. The technique still works even if you don't stick with one image. The solution evolves but the focus remains the same. In this way you can navigate to where you want to be.