One bite at a time? Or Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals?

Aug 3, 2022

Always controversial

Last week’s share from Jordan Peterson went down so well and caused no controversy whatsoever – so I thought I’d do it again.

Perhaps easier to get on board with this week – but also it speaks a little towards JP’s style, which was one of the topics drawn from last week’s effort. And there’s definitely two schools of thought here (and a place somewhere in the middle) – and the conclusion is not a data-based one, to my knowledge – and I also have my own take on it. He states it as a dictat – I think there’s a discussion to be had. Over to JP:

Incremental Improvement Forward

If there are things about your life that are bothering you or things about the world that are bothering you, then you want to deconstruct them into solvable subproblems.

If you have a child, this is the sort of thing that you do naturally, right? Because you want to set your child a challenge that’s sufficiently challenging to push them forward in their development.

So that makes it meaningful for the child that puts them in the zone of proximal development, which is where proper maturation takes place.

You want to make it challenging but also with a reasonable probability of success, and there’s an art to that.

So you want to set yourself a task that’s difficult, but not so difficult. You can’t attain it.

And then what happens is that you step up improvement across time incrementally, and there’s also a certain element of humility to it, right, which is, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

Don’t set grandiose goals. Incremental improvement will get you a tremendous distance.

That’s the end of JP’s efforts.

My take on Peterson here:

My personal take is that the old adage “Eat an elephant one bite at a time” makes sense. It works for me. However the alternative school of thought is the BHAGs, the Big Hairy Audacious Goal-setters. Aim for the moon and be happy if you “only” reach the stars. In many ways I think of this as quite a hard-wired trait rather than a learned behaviour.

I also think that one is lower-risk, higher hit rate, and likely lower achieving overall. The norm will still only be exceeded by 50% of the people (by definition) but more likely the pareto rule will apply, either 80/20 or the square root of the number of people involved.

The BHAGs is more 99/1 and for the real game-changers, the Elon Musks of the world. The likes of me look at 99% failure rates and think – no thanks, what’s the point. That’s a mindset thing. Warren Buffett isn’t a 99/1 operator – just a clever person who has stuck to some solid principles and stayed in the game – and when there’s tough times, staying in the game is sometimes enough. Uncle Warren has done the impossible – give himself more like a 60-70%+ chance of success in all worlds, and the “failures” are only when something went majorly wrong for him, health issues, untimely demise etc. I, personally, prefer those odds.

Where are you at on it?

Discussion Property Peterson Goals