Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Are You Sure?

It is a pretty normal day for me when a friend says they want to accomplish something and yet they have no idea how to go about it. They want to start a business, but aren't sure what kind of business. They want to make more money, but aren't sure how. They want to get certified/learn new technology/become famous/[insert random goal here]. In all cases, they have an ambiguous idea but not a specific agenda.

A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure. -- Segal's Law

In our era of The Paradox of Choice, it is the amazing potential we all have to stand on the shoulders of giants and achieve greatness that is most often our downfall.

We have to choose every day as engineers which technologies to support, which languages to learn, which certifications to pursue. We are bombarded with choices for what social networks to participate in, which email system to rely on, and should we use an Mac or PC? Is it IPhone or Windows Mobile?

As an architect, the most valuable thing you can do is be deliberate in your choices. The hard part is being deliberate quickly. Digesting the massive amounts of ambiguity at a breathtaking pace to synthesize answers and clarity as and when they are needed, usually well before the obvious answers have become apparent. If being an architect was just about picking the obvious when it became obvious, then everyone could do it. (Which probably explains why everyone thinks they can do it.)

If you want to get out there and do something, first narrow down what that something might be. Perhaps start by writing down what it isn't. Then start writing down the attributes or identifying characteristics for what it is. If you can describe what the world looks like when you've achieved your goal, you'll be a good way towards deciding what road will get you there.

Or don't.

It's your choice.

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