William James said this: “We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can. The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.” – William James

This statement, along with a conversation over the weekend supporting the value of scientific deconstruction coupled with the 80/20 rule leads down two paths.

The first path is that of the scientific method, and how we are, for the most part ill-equipped to apply it to our own problems (see my last post for reference, and the Nassim Taleb quote below).

In short, there are three components to consider when faced with any decision:

The first step is to define your current state as it is (not as you wish it to be):

e.g. Where is true right now? This is what some would call the ‘platonic fold’; where beliefs collide with hard reality.

The second step is to define where you want to be:

e.g. Do you have a crystal-clear vision of where you want to be? If it’s not a ‘Hell Yes!’, keep looking.

The third step is to define what has to be true for your ‘want’ to happen:

e.g. What must happen; the key cornerstones that will ensure success?

“The problem is that we don’t learn that we don’t learn – Nassim Nicholas Taleb”

Photo Credit: quotefancy.com

The second path links with James’s writings; we must create a habit pathway in our process that removes the likelihood that we focus on the wrong things, which is where Vilfredo Pareto’s 80/20 rule comes into play…

As said in the previous piece, the human mind has a fantastic capacity for imagination, and conceptualization. Now, while this is great for art, creativity, and many other things, it is a bit of a fly in the ointment when it comes to problem solving.

What you want when it comes to problem solving is a keen sense of logic in defining the problem, followed by a limitless array of solutions from which your aforementioned logic can select the most appropriate. This would be the ideal balance of the 80/20 rule.

Regrettably, our minds are in the custom of inversely applying the 80/20 rule, ergo we exhaust our creative energies on defining the problem, leaving us with logic to deal with the solution – rarely a winning strategy.

So the challenge here (as with path one) is to acutely define the facts (that’s your 20%), and then attack the solution (that’s the remaining 80%), with all the inspired thought you will have at your disposal.

How you do this is up to your own personal predilections, along with some time uninterrupted so as to have a clear path for thought to flow. Just remember, spend 20% of your time on the problem, and the rest on the solution (if you find yourself obsessing over the problem, gently bring yourself back to the facts).

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius

One last thing; If you’re having trouble defining anything, begin with the first thought that comes to mind, and ask why (we’re back at the scientific method again), and repeat until you get there.