Believe me when I say that we have a difficult time ahead of us.
But if we are to be prepared for it, we must first shed our fear of it.
I stand before you now, truthfully, unafraid.
Because I believe something you do not?
I stand here because I remember.
I remember that I am here not because the path that lies before me,
but because of the path that lies behind me.
An excerpt from Morpheus’ speech to the citizens of Zion in the film “The Matrix Reloaded” (hat tip to Fabius Maximus who opened his post “An Important Thing to Remember as We Start a New Year” with it.
2008 was one of the worst years from an economic perspective: the S&P 500 dropped 38.5% (vs. 38.6% in 1937) and the DJIA dropped 33.8% (its worst annual decline since 52.7% loss in 1931). 2009 may see the bankruptcy of major automobile manufactures, newspapers, and perhaps many more financial institutions. This is the global backdrop; our Silicon Valley perspective doesn’t appear as grim as the 25% job loss after the dotcom crash, so we have seen worse in recent memory, at least locally.
I spent last week reading Mark Zimmerman‘s Journal, which he keeps on-line as a wiki and spells zhurnal. He has serialized the entries by date of creation starting here: http://zhurnaly.com/zhurnal01.html I recommend it wholeheartedly for entrepreneurs even though it’s written by a physicist with a Zen frame of mind who has taken up marathon running in his 50’s. He is thoroughly committed to mindfulness and self-improvement, two goals any entrepreneur should strive for.
I thought I would stir in some excerpts from his “Headlights and Decisions” entry as they bear on our ability to take action in spite of limited information. Who knows how 2009 will actually turn out? We can’t know until the year is over but today January 1st has been fired at us point blank. :
E. L. Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.
Zimmerman likes the sentiments (as do I) but observes:
- It helps tactical decision making to have a strategic viewpoint — a large-scale map of the situation, so that the right local battles can be fought to lead toward global victory.
- In writing, it helps to have an outline (or at least a general vision) of the final product.
- Today’s actions must be guided by immediate conditions in the light of the larger context.
- Refusing to decide is a decision; deciding prematurely is also a decision. Wisdom lies in balancing the two.
In February of this year I wrote “Burn Your Boats But Not Your Bridges” and made a couple of points that are probably revisiting
- Committing to a mission enables us to see possibilities for further action.
- A decision is an irrevocable commitment of resources: the lesson from the OODA loop is that this can be through indecision and delay as much as in the affirmative.
- “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” from W. H. Murray‘s popularization of John Anisters free form translation of Faust.