The 3 ways to work

As an exercise, I’ve tried to distill philosophies of work into 3 possible approaches. Dividing things into threes can be a silly thing to do, as the universe doesn’t really come in threes, but divisions force opinions, so here were are.

Three approaches to work:

  1. Deal with it when it happens. This is just in time life. You do whatever is most urgent or interesting in the moment switching to the next most interesting thing. You deal with the state of whateve you switch to only when you switch to it or are forced to deal with it. You never plan or consider contigencies. You just go, do and move on and accept things as they happen. Strength is making do with what you have. Common nicknames: the procrastinator, Mr. easy going, Yin, the loose cannon, the walking disaster area.
  2. Deal with things before they happen. This means you spend time thinking about what will happen and invest energy ahead of time in making it go how you want. The more you want it, and the more specific the outcome you want, the more time you invest. Strength is in discipline and preperation. Common nicknames: the control freak, the party pooper, Yang, or Mr. Anal retentive.
  3. Plan / prepare and adapt. . You plan for what you want, but you know at the same time that despite your plans, things you don’t want will happen: but that’s ok. Where the plans fail you’ll deal with the moment as best you can (and not just by making another big plan). Strength is in flexibility and diversity. Common nicknames: the natural, the yin/yang master, jack of all trades, Mr. reasonable.

Some people are obssessively dedicated to #1 or #2, always using that strategy no matter what happens. Whenever their strategy fails they resort to digging in deeper and reapplying the same strategy, only with more diligence, which may or may not actually help with the situation they’re in.

But #3 is where the magic is: switching approaches depending on what happens. What’s tricky about this is that there’s no single answer. You have to switch approaches depending on what you observe, planning more or reacting more. It’s the humble choice, in that you have to conceed that you are, despite your pretty plans, not in complete control. But it’s also the proactive choice, since you must also recognize that with no plans at all, you won’t have a rudder to steer by. Some decisions are best served by #2 and some by #1, but it’s never one or the other: it’s both.

And I always wonder why it’s so rare to be taught a philosophy like #3, where you as the student are asked to take responsibility not only for following a strategy, but for picking which strategy to use when.

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