After a chess game some years ago, an opponent who crushed me was trying to explain why I had lost. "Too slow, too slow," he said in a thick Russian accent, shaking his head while analyzing the moves that had first got me into trouble. What he meant was that, from my side of the board, the plan wasn't keeping up with reality. Events were happening in other areas, changes that needed preparation to deal with --- and I kept plodding along with a strategy that clearly (to him!) wasn't going to come to fruition in time.

But just as bad as being too slow, in chess and in life, is being too fast. Some threats are ephemeral; a good long-range approach shouldn't be abandoned in response to momentary distractions. More importantly, many plans take time to mature and will fail if rushed. Although certain situations are time-critical and demand instant attention, more often there's enough slack in real-world systems to permit a wide range of choice in response, paced more or less quickly. Speed is one factor, and not always the most important one.

There is some justice in the universe: vision, consistency, persistence, and focus do get their rewards. Even a second-best plan is often better than flitting from one great idea to another, not giving any of them enough time to work. "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing" --- and although foxes win on occasion, a hedgehog usually has at least a fighting chance.

Saturday, September 25, 1999 at 21:35:39 (EDT) = 1999-09-25


(correlates: SelfConfidence, Comments on Migraine Visions, ProximityEffect, ...)