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Friday, January 15, 2010

Out of the Alley, Under the Streetlight

There's that insightful old story about the tipsy gentleman crawling around the roadway under a streetlight on a dark night. A friend comes along and, quite naturally, inquires as to what's going on.

"I'm looking for my wallet," says the guy on all fours.

"Oh, you lost it here in the street?" the friend asks.

"No," says the searcher. "I lost it back there in the alley, but it's too dark to look for it there, so I'm looking out here."

Feel free to chuckle, if you think that's a funny little story. Then do yourself a favor and think about the reality all around you, in which multitudes persist in doing what's easy rather than what will work.

A prime field is that of decision-making. Most of us have familiar thinking tracks and favorite solutions. When a situation arises that needs to be examined and resolved, we tend -- if we're not careful -- to follow familiar routes of diagnosis and treatment. We may do this even when the problem is only faintly related to what we have experienced before.

We cling to the "tried and true," which often is really neither tried nor true, never actually having been tested and confirmed. Doesn't matter. We need comfort when something causes us to be uneasy. We may repeatedly apply the unsuccessful process, growing more desperate with each failure, despite its predictability.

In short, the pursuit of comfort can trump the achievement of success if the decision-making process is not constructed thoughtfully and followed with discipline. Identifying what you don't know about this matter, and searching diligently for the necessary information, makes all the difference in the world of competent problem-solving.

A little practice, built intelligently from ongoing experience, remarkably raises the learning curve in competent decision-making. Life is neither a dark alley nor a well-lit street. It's having a good flashlight and knowing how to use it.

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