If I knew it, I wouldn’t do it

Photo by John Matychuk on Unsplash

This happens to be a recurring theme both in my blog posts and life. The more I think about what I do and write about, the more I realize how much of it is driven by a sheer ignorance.

There’s a saying that goes like – Idiot didn’t know it was impossible, so he did it.

I think this is quite something to write about. And the reason I think so is simply because I used to be the one who over-analyzes stuff and, as a result, usually decides NOT to do it or procrastinate the hell out of it.

I say I WAS not because I overcome it, but because I learned to recognize the patterns and kind of forcefully focus on ignoring them.

I could literally share tons of examples — my solo trip to Thailand (and everything I enrolled myself while there), doing the MSc degree in Data Science, moving into Engineering Management, having a kid (just kidding!), … the list goes on really, but two things that are common for all are – I never regretted it and it opened some doors I didn’t even know existed.

Is IGNORANCE the key?

Actually, I think it is, yes. There’s even a saying that goes like: “Ignorance is a bliss”.

Because, the more you know and investigate about something, the more you learn of all the potential complexities and obstacles, and, as a result, the more paranoid you become.

However, the truth is that – most of it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY to happen.

There was one instance couple of years ago where I started feeling some extremely sharp pain in my ankle joint. It would come randomly, usually while I was taking a shower and it was so damn painful that I thought I’d pass out on couple of occasions. Logically, I did the only reasonable thing that anyone would do – I started googling it. And you know what happens to those who google health symptoms? You always end up with a terminal condition (in my case I was convinced it was a precondition to varicose veins and that I might end up with my foot being amputated).

You know what it turned out to be? A “mechanical” problem, as a doctor would later diagnose it 🙂 As in – as I moved to Vienna at the time, I used to walk way more than I did before, and due to whatever stupid reasoning, I was stepping idiotically on my foot, which simply compounded over time – the more I walked, the more painful it was becoming.

Which also leads me to advice that my therapist gave me a long time ago — NEVER EVER google any health conditions!

So, what am I suggesting?

I actually have a sticky note on my desktop that, in short says — “Do now, evaluate later”.

And this is really the approach that I’ve been trying to embed in everything. Like – whatever it is that I need to do (a project, a new hobby, a new article, etc.), I’d usually jump straight into it, spend some time, and then revise and improve later. Rinse & repeat until satisfied (or until deadline passes).

You might think this is counter-intuitive because NOT doing pre-investigation and what not can be detrimental to success. Yes and no, I’d say.

Some amount of research is good, but be aware of the condition called “analysis paralysis”, defined by Wikipedia as:

Analysis paralysis (or paralysis by analysis) describes an individual or group process where overanalyzing or overthinking a situation can cause forward motion or decision-making to become “paralyzed”, meaning that no solution or course of action is decided upon within a natural time frame. A situation may be deemed too complicated and a decision is never made, or made much too late, due to anxiety that a potentially larger problem may arise. A person may desire a perfect solution, but may fear making a decision that could result in error, while on the way to a better solution. Equally, a person may hold that a superior solution is a short step away, and stall in its endless pursuit, with no concept of diminishing returns.

Source: Wikipedia

Thing is that most of us will tend to over-analyze stuff, all in fear of making a mistake that could have been anticipated for in the beginning. My take on this is that it’s way cheaper to fail fast, learn and improve, than to spend ages analysing and just lock yourself in a cage of paranoia.

You should also be aware that perfectionism might be a procrastination in disguise – as in, you claim you want to invest proper time in order not to make a mistake down the road, but what it really is is a fear of actually starting a thing (and yes I wrote an article about it). If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who keeps claiming they want to start going to the gym, doing some sport or go on a diet. They either start IMMEDIATELY or want to be ‘prepared’ upfront and, as such, actually procrastinate the hell out of it. And yes, this is from personal experience 🙂

This could be a good time to tell you that the saying “measure twice cut once” is something you might want to drown in meters of concrete and set on fire, never to be found again.

If you want to learn more

It’s actually hard for me to pinpoint a single resource that discusses this exact topic.

The way I see it is that this is more of a mixture of anxiety (i.e. fear of making a mistake we might regret), procrastination, lack of tools for decision making, and overall lack of experience really. And this is not a scientific explanation but my own, based on my own research of my thinking processes.

Attacking all of these could be challenging, but I’ll try giving you some guidance:

  1. Try it! And try some more! — this is probably the best resource I could share honestly. Real-life experience of TRYING, FAILING and seeing what unfolds from it is just absolutely THE BEST that you can do. Seriously! The more you do it the more you will realize that failure is way less costly then you anticipated and that, at the end of the day, you profit more, by making fast decisions
  2. Read biographies — I keep referring to autobiographies because I deeply believe that seeing first-hand that most of people we’d consider successful pretty much relied on just trying tons of stuff until they ended up being lucky at the right moment.
  3. Read about Agile — you didn’t expect that one, did you? Well, if you go deep into Agile, you will learn that the philosophy of it is really based on fast iterations, combined with ‘retrospectives’ to learn from your mistakes. I wrote couple of articles on that topic as well.
  4. Read “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius — if you’re still not convinced in all I’ve said, go and read the thoughts of one of the greatest Roman emperors, who pretty much could have done ANYTHING without any repercussions. What you will discover is amount of doubt, discipline and struggle, meaning that more power does not necessarily mean more freedom of mind.

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