Proactive Thinking as The Most Precious Ability

by Dmitry Kirsanov 11. February 2012 18:20

butterfly in a jar“You see, there is only one constant. One universal. It is the only real truth. Causality. Action, reaction. Cause and effect.”

Merovingian, The Matrix Reloaded

Sometimes I think that lack of proactive thinking is a root of all evil. Buzzwords aside, I am talking about the analytical skills and using them.

By coincidence or not, but for the last few months, when I am analyzing the cause of someone’s failure in any area, it appears that lack of analytical skills, or thinking 2 steps ahead, was the paramount part of it.

As a metaphor to understand what I am talking about – let’s take a car. Imagine, that someone has created a car without brakes. Because he was only thinking about taking off, and not about how his journey would end.

A friend of mine once left home with about 120$ in her pocket. She took a ticket to a plane and fled to England. No plans, no language, nothing at all. She was 15 years old somewhat naïve girl. I wish I could have a better example of real-life lack of proactive thinking.

And don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about the plain stupidity, as the mentioned friend of mine is one of the smartest people I ever knew. Yet there is one important note to take:

The difference between smart and stupid is the ability to see the reaction behind the action. And to see that reaction as yet another action, and to see reaction to that. And to measure or at least to extrapolate it as far as needed, so to measure whether the end result worth taking the initial action.

In that sense, stupidity is the inability to predict reaction using facts and reason, not faith and beliefs.

Sometimes we say that smart people could do stupid things. It’s like when you know the consequences, but still are willing to take them, even if you have a better option. For example – you could decide to take the next train instead of this one, because there will be less other passengers and it will add to the comfort. Even though then you’ll be late at work. And here we come to another principle:

It’s almost never a one-dimensional plain chain between the cause and effect, it almost always lays in multiple dimensions, united by something. Like – you get late to work, because you’ve chosen to get another train. In the layer of your personal life that’s good, because it will bring you more comfort. In the layer of your professional life this could add some unneeded complication. These are two different layers united by your self.

We all have priorities for such layers – some people would sacrifice their personal life for professional career, some people wouldn’t. And some are unable to separate one layer from another or predict the effects.

The cause and effect is everywhere, it’s like the most useful ability of any human being, as once you understand the cause, you can predict the effect. For example, you could learn the programming language and create computer software, but if you can’t understand what effect is desired from the client’s actions (that is – predict his actions and desired reactions) – you would be useless as the programmer, even though you would know all the tools.

So, it doesn’t require to be dumb in order to be a bad programmer. You only have to lack one skill, which you either have or you don’t. The ability to see the causality.

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