Top Down Planning vs Tinkering

Okay, last post I got so carried away with one direction that Black Swan author Nassim Taleb took me with his recommendation that we adjust to the existence of Black Swan events rather than try to predict them, that I never got around to relaying how he suggested we do this adjusting.

He’s big on “anti-knowledge,” that is, what we don’t know is actually more important than what we do know. Which is ironic given how much people value knowing stuff. (This fits into the spiritual life as well… what we don’t know about God is surely more important than what we do, since we’ll be learning about Him for the rest of eternity). So if focusing on what you don’t know is the key, how does he suggest we do this?

“Among many other benefits, you can set yourself up to collect serendipitous Black Swans (of the positive kind) by maximizing your exposure to them…[C]ontrary to social-science wisdom, almost no discovery, no technologies of note, came from design and planning — they were just Black Swans. The strategy for the discoverers and entrepreneurs is to rely less on top-down planning and focus on maximum tinkering and recognizing opportunities when they present themselves…”

Aha! Perfect justification for my lack of “top-down planning” when writing a book. It’s the random stuff, the stuff you can’t predict, the things your subconscious brings out that interest you that you had no idea were interesting that make the book itself interesting. At least I think so. And if you don’t know you think something is interesting, how are you going to plan it out? So this whole line of thinking, which I don’t feel like I’ve really set down clearly, lets me see more clearly why doing it the way I’ve been doing it isn’t such a bad thing after all.

I need to tinker, recognize the good bits when they come, and also, he says at some other point in the book, have plenty of down time to think and play and just be mindless if I need to.

Not that I’ve had any time to do anything remotely like tinkering when it comes to the next book, but when the current season of events in my life comes to a close and I get back to writing, I’ll be ready.

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