"We can be a little less perfect when we are good at thinking on our feet"
"We don't need to fear mistakes when we can turn the moment we make a mistake to a moment of spontaneous creativity that works"
STOP THIS MAD
PURSUIT OF PERFECT
BY JON THORNE
My core skill is my ability to think on my feet when things go wrong to make it work. It means I can do just enough planning to make things happen, knowing that when mistakes occur, which they will, I can think on my feet to make it work. I often achieve more than I planned.
Those who are poor at thinking on their feet often take actions that turn a small mistake into a big problem. When a small mistake happens, they struggle to think of what else to do other than repeat the actions that created the mistake. Or they do nothing until someone tells them what to do, which, when the mistake is time-critical tends to escalate the situation. Or they follow up their first mistake with another and another. In these ways, small mistakes quickly become big problems.
To me, it is logical and sensible that if I was poor at thinking on my feet I would find a way to get better at thinking on my feet. I would get better at responding to mistakes as they happen to make it work. But, many of those who are poor at thinking on their feet are not thinking clearly. They are using data and technology to meticulously plan and control everything and everyone in an attempt to remove errors and mistakes so that nobody needs to be good at thinking on their feet. Not only is this rubbish it is dangerous.
It is rubbish because to achieve the aim of no errors and no mistakes everything must always make sense. Everything must be predictable. Everything must be known. Everything must be controlled. This will never happen. We will never know everything. We will never be able to control everyone. We will never be able to make sense of everything all the time. There will always be mistakes.
It is dangerous because when mistakes happen, and they will, we can't stop them, we are less able to think on our feet and stop small mistakes from becoming big problems and big problems from becoming a major crisis. It is also dangerous for our health. We learn to fear mistakes. We meticulously plan and control everything and everyone as we strive to be mistake-free and perfect. This is absurd. Stupid beyond belief. No matter how clever we are, we can’t plan for every scenario. There will always be something unexpected. We can’t control everything and everyone. We can’t. If we try to control others, we harm ourselves and them. We can't be perfect. We can't live a perfect life. It is stressful. Isolating. Failure is guaranteed. Poor mental health is a certainty.
It is far better to have a slightly less meticulous plan and get better at thinking on our feet so that we can respond to mistakes as they happen to make it work. We can be a little less perfect when we can turn the moment we make a mistake to a moment of spontaneous creativity that works. We can stop this mad pursuit of perfection by getting better at thinking on our feet.
WE GIVE EVERYONE OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTICE THINKING ON THEIR FEET
THINKING ON OUR FEET MEANS TAKING ACTION WITHOUT BEING SURE OF WHAT WILL HAPPEN. IT’S TAKING ACTION WITH AN ABILITY TO SPOT IF IT DOESN’T WORK AND STOP, THINK ON OUR FEET, AND TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT. TO KEEP GOING UNTIL WE FIND SOMETHING THAT WORKS
To practice thinking on our feet we need real time, disrupted, uncertain situations, which are one-offs, never to be repeated again, so that we don't have any procedural way of dealing with them. Playing sports is an ideal way to practice thinking on our feet.
Playing sports to be good at thinking on our feet is a very different experience. Things going wrong and all our various inabilities at playing sports are opportunities to practice thinking on our feet. This is why Jon’s one rule is “Be Kind”. The "Be Kind" rule means we give ourselves and others space to try things we and they are not sure will work. We give each other space to fail so that we can practice thinking on our feet. We are kind.
When we are good at thinking on our feet, we share moments of spontaneous creativity, we turn a difficult situation around as it is happening, and break free from habits that limit our performance and our lives. It just takes practice.