Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Small Strategic Errors

I started to write yesterday. After a little more than a paragraph and a half, I deleted it. It wasn’t because the writing was poor or because I was insufficiently inspired, rather, it was simply nothing of any substance. All it amounted to was whining, high-end whining, but whining all the same. I’m busy, I’m under extreme pressure, there is so little time, etc., etc., etc. Furthermore, this is nothing new; it happens twice a year and I have recounted it before. It was profound only once. I found that after about 250 words, I was sharing nothing new or even worthwhile. I’ll get through this, I always do – said it before. These are the problems that come with moving forward and succeeding – said it before. I signed up for this – and I said that before as well. While it is true that I have procrastinated less and persevered more this semester, this should come as no surprise to me or anyone who regularly ventures here - one would assume or at least hope that progress has been made in this area.

This morning, while finding the will to grade my students’ work, my mind began to drift a little. I was remembering certain seemingly unrelated events and placing them into some sort of “what if” context. Nothing big, mind you… not what if I had changed a major decision in my life. I was thinking of the minor everyday words spoken, actions taken and things that fall into a category of the often automatic or unconscious decisions that are made hundreds of times every day. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all have a “strategy.” The things we do or say conform to a world-view that evolves with the passing of each moment and these decisions are designed, at some level, to produce an expected or desired outcome. There are the big-picture plans and goals the likes of which I am currently embroiled in, but there are also the little things that are often not so little at all.

We are a species that thrives on community. Without each other, we are nothing. Our greatest evolutionary leap – the ability to communicate symbolically – by definition cannot happen in isolation. We need each other. All communication involves a strategy. And if a strategy exists, so do strategic errors. Although it is rather easy to identify the larger blunders, the small strategic errors are far more difficult to assess. They could go either way; the consequences might not manifest immediately or even at all in anything more than a perceived relational shift. There is rarely anything concrete to indicate what went wrong… but something did. Things do not go as planned and though it could be just the way things are, it could also be a small strategic error. The evidence for this phenomenon can best be found in the old axiom, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

I have some very public goals. I also have a number of private aspirations. Each is important and each requires an approach that does not compromise who I am. However, the way I present this person can radically alter the way he is perceived by others. That requires a communication strategy and it is one that can never be perfected. There are simply too many variables. But it takes more than just the knowledge that I am a good person and allowing fate or faith to guide the rest. If I cannot be open to the fact that, in my exuberance, I have erred - that I have failed to make the connections or to form relationships that I desire, then I am destined to repeat those errors. Any successful strategy must be fluid. Major strategic errors are much easier to identify and correct – or at least mitigate. But these small strategic errors are not and, furthermore, they are often only perceptive... rarely conclusive. But to discount their existence would constitute a strategy that is destined to fail.

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