Saturday, October 28, 2006

Leaky boat

"Pouring water out of a leaky boat takes away the focus and energy from rowing the boat." We have heard this or a variant of this. This says that any obstacles or nuisances deter us from focusing our efforts on the goal thus making the achievement of the goal that much more difficult. That is all  valid.

Important question is - how do we get back our focus on to rowing the boat and less on pouring out the water that is getting into the boat from the leak? We can plug the leak or we can carry a pump which once started can empty the water out. Which approach do we take? There is no one answer for this. It's very subjective. However, a new insight develops when we look critically into the scenario and see how it applies to ourselves. One possible way is to compare the leak to one of our weaknesses and how it affects our ability to achieve what we set out to achieve. In order to achieve a goal, we need different strengths in different measures. We may not have some strengths and in fact we may even be weak in those areas. Due to such weaknesses, the obstacles keep popping up and we have to give up rowing to pour the water out. Plugging the leak is like working on our weakness and to reduce it or eliminate it. This is one plausible solution. Using a pump to take the water out is like substituting someone else in that area where we are weak but the other person is strong. This also works.

It probably is much easier to further strengthen our strengths than to improve upon the area where we are weak. We are weak in a area for a reason. We are not able to motivate ourselves enough to become good at it. Classic example is those subjects in which we were not good at. For some it may be maths and for others it may be history and so on.

With inordinate amount of effort and frustration, we may attain passing score in the area that we are trying to improve. But, in that pursuit we may lose out on the opportunity or the level we reach even after so much effort may not be adequate to attain our goal. It's like we trying to plug the hole but water still seeping in. So, having someone fill in for us seems to be a better option. Of course, that does come with a risk because we become dependent on the person and our destiny does not seem to be entirely in our own hands. One way to address lack of control on our own destiny in such cases to address the risks. In the example of a pump, we can keep another pump. If that's too expensive and impractical, we can keep parts required to repair. We can choose to visit the shore often enough to make sure that pump is ok and so on.

Leading experts have said it over and again that it is much easier to strengthen our strengths than work on our weaknesses. "What is the best direction to ride the horse? The direction it is already going." Trying to work on our weaknesses is like trying to sharpen that side of the sword which has no blade in the first place. How futile that activity can be? But, we expend so much of precious energy doing exactly the same. We end up being mediocre. Look at highly successful people. Smartest of all just hire the best, give broad outline and get out of the way. People accomplish more than expected when empowered. Next best option is to work hard but do realize and hire right help where needed without fail. Both options work well. One that is sure to bomb  is to focus all your energy on working on our weaknesses. At the end, you may not develop required skills, your strengths may not be at their best, you may lose confidence become diffident and give up on a valid goal which was very much within the reach only if you were to change your strategy. Remember "successful people do not do different things. They do same things differently."


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