My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
Because of the ubiquity of the problems of, relating to, and caused by arrogance, allow me to expand upon it a bit more before we move on. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of that conversation, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite shows, “The Newsroom”. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1870479/.
In one episode, MacKenzie, who is the executive producer in that newsroom, said of Will, the star anchor of the newsroom:
You know what I like about Will? He’s not absolutely sure about anything. He struggles with things. He’s never certain he’s right and sometimes he’s not. But he tries hard to be. He struggles with things.
https://www.quotes.net/show-quote/60552 (emphasis added)
I love those lines because they put into practice another teaching to which I aspire to live by:
Perfect knowledge rarely, if ever, exists. Life and circumstances will always dictate how much time and resources you can devote to any given decision. Thus, all you can do is make the best decision you could under the circumstances — given the time and resource constraints.
Absolute knowledge is an illusion most often grasped by self-delusional fools. Thus, I love that Will struggles with decisions. Getting it right is hard! Making the right decision is a struggle if you really cared about the outcome of that decision. It is a challenge to identify all the appropriate and relevant stakeholders, the appropriate and relevant data points on which your decision should rest, and the appropriate analytical strategies and processes that should be brought to bear in making your decision. Only fools claim otherwise or think otherwise.
As an aside, this reminds me of a great advice that originated from Dartmouth College on how to organize and structure your paper when writing: once you’ve finished brainstorming and data-gathering,
Keep working [your outline] until … [it] fits your idea like a glove. When you think you have an outline that works, challenge it. I’ve found when I write that the first outline never holds up to a good interrogation. When you start asking questions of your outline, you will begin to see where the plan holds, and where it falls apart. Here are some questions that you might ask:
- Does my thesis control the direction of my outline?
- Are all of my main points relevant to my thesis?
- Can any of these points be moved around without changing something important about my thesis?
- Does the outline seem logical?
- Does my argument progress, or does it stall?
- If my argument seems to take a turn, mid-stream, does my thesis anticipate that turn?
- Do I have sufficient support for each of my points?
- Have I made room in my outline for other points of view about my topic?
- Does this outline reflect a thorough, thoughtful argument? Have I covered the ground?https://rosenenglish.weebly.com/uploads/1/4/1/4/14147635/how_to_structure_and_organize_your_paper.pdf (emphasis in the original)
Planning your decision-making strategies is not that different from outlining your paper. Both require you to ensure you have the most relevant and appropriate data points, that the process and logic of getting from where you start to where you hope to end are sound, and that your arguments are coherent and cohesive. If you replaced the words “goal” for “thesis” and “decision-making process” for “outline”, then you may find useful the above-listed questions in your decision-making process.
With that background, we now turn to our original point: the arrogant thinks he know all, and this delusion inhibits his motivation to reexamine his data or analyses. Thus, he fails. Thus, he can never be the best he could be. As my mother always said, “Even a dog can catch a fly every once in a while when he yawns.” Luck may intervene and produce a good outcome from a bad decision-making process, but Lady Luck is fickle. It is best to not leave in her hands the outcome you hope to achieve.
Think critically and plan your decision-making process carefully. Don’t let pride, arrogance, etc., interfere with critical, clear, and appropriately expansive thinking. If you do this, success will find you.
Critical thinking is necessary to problem solving, and the world always needs problem-solvers. What does it take to solve problems? You must
- identify with clarity and precision what is the problem you’re tying to solve — in graduate school at Duke University, we spent a significant amount of time on this step for each project;
- know intimately the stakeholders involved and what their objectives, interests, needs, and fears are — without the support of stakeholders, your strategy will likely fail (even if it were the best and most appropriate strategy) because the key players will not help you and may even work against you;
- find a pathway that achieves your goal and gets the relevant and critical stakeholders on board — you can’t please everyone, but you must gain the support of the most critical players;
- execute according to your plan — too many fail this step; and
- continue to revisit and update your data and strategies as necessary during the execution stage to ensure you remain on track to achieving your goal and are using the latest and most relevant information available — don’t forget: it’s a reiterative process.
(If you think about it, the above problem-solving/decision-making process is not unlike the writing process where you must identify the purpose of and audience for your writing, brainstorm for ideas, outline your arguments, write, and rewrite. Thus, the above-reference to the Dartmouth method of outlining is not wholly inappropriate.)
Anyway, I digressed. My sons, always think critically. Don’t allow pride or arrogance to interfere with your critical thinking process.
Too often, people fail because they think they know it all (i.e., they are arrogant) and fail to understand their audience, markets, or stakeholders. As a result, they fail to gather all the necessary and relevant data point in order to devise the best strategy for outcomes which would meet the needs of their audience, markets, or stakeholders.
Be not like them.
All my love, always,