Soulful Sunday: Prototypes

"Plans are useless but planning is indispensable." -Dwight D. Eisenhower

The history of the world is a history of prototype testing--from the time of the first single-celled organism, to the complex body that you currently pilot. Successful prototypes persisted, while unsuccessful ones perished. This evolution applies to more than just biology. It describes the spread of ideas, government, and culture. With each iterative design the DNA of that design changes slightly and then informs the following generations. Our daily lives follow this same construct of prototype testing. We (hopefully) repeat the things that worked from the previous day and change the things that failed. Yet, sometimes we get stuck. And this is where planning comes in.

The process of planning is essential to directing the path of our lives. Without it we are lost in a sea of disparate influences. Even the paradoxical statement, "My plan is to have no plan," is still a conscious choice, a direction, and therefore qualifies. To not commit to a plan is in fact a plan. Non-action is sometimes warranted, but more often than not it is a result of cowardice, not decisiveness. By being passive we surrender our agency and give the pen to authors external to our true values and desires. This is unacceptable. The surest way to control the future is to control the present. Prototyping our ideas and decisions is our way of doing so.

The process of planning/prototyping involves more than just deciding and acting, however. It is a wheel of four distinct processes--observe, orient, decide, and act--abbreviated as the OODA Loop by Air Force Colonel John Boyd. All four must be implemented in that order for our process to actually make sense. The good news is that you can start anywhere in that loop. For instance, if you have limited information, or limited perspective, it may be hard to observe and orient yourself correctly, so you can skip right to deciding and taking action. This could take the form of asking for help or collecting more information, or running an experiment with your actions to see what results. The takeaway is that there is always a way to get the wheel to turn. We need not get stuck.

As this is the last post of the year, I wish to plant a seed for the coming months. In what areas of your life do you feel the need for change? Do you have enough information and perspective to make a good decision? If so, then what is the simplest action that you could begin to implement that would give you new results? If not, then where can you get information and/or where can you simply just get started? Action (even misinformed) can point us in the direction of a solution. Sometimes we need to step backward from our goals to more clearly see them in their entirety. Happy New Year and happy OODA Looping!

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