When the Hard Way is the Easy Way

Few stories have gained wide popularity in the way a small inspirational story of ‘The Star Thrower’ written by the late scientist Loren Eiseley has. The story goes like this. There was once a wise old man who used to go to the beach to do his writing. One day as he walked along the beach he saw somebody throwing something into the sea. As he got closer he saw a young man picking up starfish and gently throwing them into the ocean. The wise man asked ‘Young man, what are you doing?’ The young man replied, ‘Throwing starfish into the ocean. The sun is rising, and the tide is out. And if I don’t throw them in, they will dehydrate and die’ For this the wise man said, ‘But, young man, don’t you realize that there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish all along it? You can’t possibly make a difference!’ The young man bent down again and picked up another starfish and threw it the sea. Next turning to the old man he said, ‘See it made a difference for that one.’

This simple starfish story has been widely quoted and interpreted in many corporate leadership lessons about the power within each one of us to make a positive difference to others. And this great story can also be interpreted in a different way where the wise man is unconsciously seeking the perfect solution to throw all the starfish into the sea in one go, rather than the clumsy way of doing it one by one. He sees no easy way to cover miles and miles of scattered starfish, and the tiny effort of picking one by one seems basically futile and tiresome. And since it is never ending exercise why even attempt such a job and strain yourself? As normal people most of us would instantly agree with this argument. Naturally, it is quite common to refuse, avoid and grumble about anything that takes a long time, is inefficient, is not automatic, needs too many steps, does not have a final everlasting solution, etc. However, there are ample reasons why one should not wait for the perfect solution or grumble about the lack of perfection or clarity in anything we do.

1. Firstly perfection and making things elegant is a costly business.  While the pursuit of perfection is not a crime, it may often be unachievable. For example, in order to make something perfect or extremely simple for everyone to use (or afford) tons of money may have to be spent. Simplicity is often very expensive. Hence, a mediocre way that is readily available for use now can often out beat a perfect way that is still unknown or light years away. So a mediocre way that produces at least a handful of results at the end of the day is far better than not doing anything at all, or waiting for someone to invent the perfect way. So as Mother Teresa used to say, ‘Don't wait for leaders. Do it person to person.’ All great cooks, doctors, artists, surgeons, lawyers and teachers know and practice this simple philosophy.

2. Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.’ Often, in many areas an imperfect, clumsy, hard or goofy method is the only way possible to get things done. But people often live in an illusionary world believing everything can be done in several excellent ways to ease the burden on humankind. And it is common to argue that there must be a better way, or many spectacular ways of doing a particular activity. True, a single piece of work or activity can theoretically be done in many flamboyant ways. But the harsh reality is the mediocre way is probably the only viable way in the given circumstances, compulsions and limitations. For example, while dealing with bureaucratic governments you must to go through a series of outdated processes that don't make sense no matter how much you grumble. But if you don't follow their method you don't get your work done. So if you have to fill sixteen lengthy forms by hand in triplicate to get something done you have to do it, though you can endlessly argue about a better system, implement computers, web enabled, etc.

3. Somebody once said, ‘The path to perfection leads to procrastination. Don't let perfect ruin good.’ While seeking the perfect solution for something is not a crime, not attempting anything till that perfect solution is visualized or found is dumb. A perfection paralysis often stops you from starting any work. People often fear announcing or executing a half baked plan because it attracts ridicule. So the risk of being laughed at freezes people into taking no action at all, or just wait perpetually. But nothing would get done at all if one waited till someone could do it so well that no one can find any find fault with it. So even if that ultimate solution is a million miles away it is better to start something however small it may seem.

Finally, we can conclude this chapter with a great quote from Lee Iacocca who said, ‘I have always found that if I move with seventy-five percent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It's the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.

Article Author - Thejendra B.S

Web Cave - www.thejendra.com

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