Sometimes, particularly under pressure, we just try too hard. It’s tempting, but there’s an inevitable law of diminishing returns.
We are better trusting our senses, not to quit, but to take the challenge out for a walk and reframe the problem. Einstein noted, it’s difficult to solve a problem at the same level of thinking that created it and yet we are still tempted to go back to our notes, trust our qualifications and the business models we have learned and hope the “right” solution is in there somewhere. I know this to be true, because I spent years doing it before I learned to trust myself above my training, which was designed for the average situation and founded in safe historic data. Not that much use when things are complex and fluid.
The people we admire did it differently. They trusted themselves. This chart is based on a profile of Charles Darwin, which I saw going round the Eden Project years ago, and which now sits as a reminder in my office.
He broke rules, he took risks, he worked alone as much as he did with others. He questioned belief, was curious and pioneering. I think it’s salutory to note that he did not rate high on stamina, or bravery. Maybe that was his secret. He knew when to move on.
We think it’s heroic to work at the office till the early hours. Goldman Sachs junior bankers are demanding the right to an eighty hour week. Trying too hard is a trap. The self assessed health of the Goldman Sachs bankers fell from around 8 to under three.
Instead of long hours of futility, reality is a walk in the park is more likely to solve the problem. It is our intuition and sense of personal purpose that will help us more than our knowledge when we’re stuck.
It’s a tough call, but a choice. The bankers must love money very much to put up with what they do. We don’t all have to love it that much.
Enough is plenty for most of us, and we stand a better chance of doing something people will remember us for.