Saturday, October 13, 2007

2 Seconds, 3 Seconds and As Long as It Takes

What is 3 seconds? That's about the length of time it took me to type out the question. Well, it's also the title of a book I'm reading now by Les Parrott (Collins, 2007).

At first read, it seems a compromise between Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and what has been touted as its flip side, Think by Michael R. LeGault.

The spectrum of thinking encompassed by the three books becomes apparent if we were to justapose the three titles and their respective taglines in the order of increasing time horizons:

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
3 Seconds: The Power of Thinking Twice
Think: Why Crucial Decisions Can't Be Made in the Blink of an Eye.

The first book deals with the first two seconds, the thinking characterized by a flash, a gut feeling. The second book deals with the 3rd second: first impulse is always debatable at best. And the last book, well, as long as it takes but presumably still abiding by the practical constraint of time.

But I think the end is the same: considered decision making, or to borrow from 3 Seconds, “to move from whatever to whatever it takes.”

I find 3 Seconds to be highly readable. Hardly two pages (that's what we see when we open up the book: two opposing pages) go by without a heading or sub-heading, in bold face. Relevant Quotes are sprinkled throughout the book, in boxes. Here is a typical one:

Man who says “it cannot be done” should not interrupt man who is doing it.” Chinese Proverb.

Hard as I tried, I just could not recall coming across this adage in Chinese. This may be my Blink speaking. Perhaps I have to settle for Think.

I'm an engineer by training. Analytics is my forte. So I fashion myself after Think, because the consequence of a mistake is downright unacceptable. Engineers do resort to judgment, what some would call educated guesses or calculated risk, but really they are usually borne out of experience. We also have heuristics, the rule of the thumb, again honed through results of practical application, a shade above trial and error.

That's at the societal level where public safety is paramount. Within the personal realm, I usually act on impulse, especially on buying, including books. The lady of the house would really shop, manifesting the fine balance between elegance and affordability. On the other hand, I would usually pick the first item that meets the criterion of functionality, unwilling to invest more time in idle search, and disbelieving the truism of some that the fun is in the searching.

As I mellow with advancing age, and dare I say, accumulated wisdom, I have relented somewhat. Now I view shopping not merely as a pecuniary decision, but rather as a joint activity, a shared moment of discovery (as in chancing upon something unexpected, in the good sense), with loved ones.

As much as our life is marked by constant change and inter-connectedness, there is no one particular strategy of thinking that would suffice for all occasions as embodied in the oft-repeated refrain: there is no one-size-fits-all, Band Aid, cookie cutter approach to living. The three would come in useful during one time or the other, and to limit ourselves to just anyone of them is as good as curtaining the range of our repertoire.

So happy blinking or thinking, or whatever it takes.

No comments: