TITLE: Advice, Platitudes, and Reasonable Decisions AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: June 06, 2012 3:33 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I recently listened to a short clip from Seth Godin's book "The Dip". In it, he quotes Vince Lombardi as saying, "winners never quit, and quitters never win", and then says something to the effect of:
Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.
This reminded of my recent Good Ideas Aren't Always Enough, in which I talk briefly about Ward Cunningham's experience trying to create a universal mark-up language for wiki. How did Ward know it was the right time to stop pushing for a universal mark-up? Perhaps success was right around the corner. Maybe he just needed a better argument, or a better example, or a better mark-up language. Inherent in this sort of lesson is a generic variation of the Halting Problem. You can't be sure that an effort will fail until it fails. But the process may never fail explicitly, simply churning on forever. What then? That's one of the problems with giving advice of the sort my entry gave, or of the sort that Godin gives in his book. The advice itself is empty, because the opposite advice is also true. You only know which advice is right in any given context after the fact -- if ever. How did Ward know? I'm guessing a combination of: And someone may come along some day with a better argument, or a better example, or a better mark-up language, and succeed. We won't know until it happens. Maybe such advice is nothing more than platitude. Without any context, it isn't all that helpful, except as motivation to persevere in the face of a challenge (if you want to push on) or consolation in the face of a setback (if you want to focus your energy elsewhere). Still, I think it's useful to know that other people -- accomplished people -- have faced the same choice. Both outcomes are possible. Knowing that, we can use our knowledge, experience, and relationships to make choices that make sense in our current circumstances and live with the outcomes. -----