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Easy Deflection

The general-purpose strategy I call easy deflection is a bit tricky to explain. Here's one possible statement of the idea (cf. Familiar Quotations).

If at first you don't succeed,
try, try again,
then think of a better way.

That's not quite right, though, because trying isn't always required. Here's a better statement.

When a goal requires too much effort to achieve, look for other methods … and other goals.

In other words, when faced with obstacles, be easily deflected from one approach to another, and from one goal to another.

That still isn't quite right, though. The problem lies in the phrase “too much effort”: no matter who you're talking about, there will always be some amount of effort that is too much. So, it's not so much that easy deflection is a strategy one can adopt, but rather that the deflection threshold is a parameter one can adjust; and mine happens to be low.

I wonder, actually, whether it's true that the threshold is something one can adjust. It strikes me as the kind of thing that could well be genetic.

Now, although I'm claiming easy deflection is a general-purpose strategy, I only have a few examples of how it applies.

I first became aware of it in the context of finding a parking space. For me, driving around looking for spaces counts as too much effort; as a result, I get deflected from the goal of minimizing walking distance to the goal of minimizing aggravation (or mental energy, or complexity, or something).

The only other context in which it's really come to my attention is programming. When I'm programming, or manipulating information, I have a low tolerance for doing the same thing over and over by hand. Once I recognize that I'm doing the same thing, I'd much rather build a tool to automate it. So, easy deflection is that peculiar form of laziness common to programmers.

That's all the good examples I have; now I'll end with two related thoughts.

First, I think easy deflection contributes to my not being very competitive. Competition is all about effort, and as soon as there's effort involved, I tend to wander off and look for other things to do.

Second, easy deflection has something to do with the game of go. The overall goal of the game, securing the most territory, is fixed, but that goal can be achieved in different ways, via different subgoals … making this or that group live, or expanding in this or that direction. The fact of deflection is that your goals may change; given that fact, it is advantageous to play lightly, i.e., to maintain flexibility and not overcommit, so that when your goals do change, you won't have wasted much effort.

* * *

For a better explanation of the link between deflection and go, see Flexibility.


  See Also

  No Eking
  Strategy for Parking, A
  Voluntary Simplicity

@ June (2001)
o June (2004)