“Hacking something together means deciding what to do as you’re doing it, not a subordinate executing the vision of his boss. It implies the result won’t be pretty, because it will be made quickly out of inadequate materials. It may work, but it won’t be the sort of thing the eminent would want to put their name on. Something hacked together means something that barely solves the problem, or maybe doesn’t solve the problem at all, but another you discovered en route. But that’s ok, because the main value of that initial version is not the thing itself, but what it leads to.”
- The Power of the Marginal by Paul Graham
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At a recent workshop on creativity, I discussed “the performance paradox” – the concept that trying harder produces poorer results.
Afterwards, one executive in the audience came up to me and told me his own story. He said…
“When I was a kid, I went to summer camp. One of our daily activities was swimming. We were told to swim our laps as fast as possible. As we did, the camp counselors timed our speed. We did this over and over, each and every day.
“As expected, our lap times improved the more we practiced. However, about half-way through the summer, our improvements stopped. No matter how hard we tried, we could not go any faster.
“It was at that point that the counselors told us they would no longer evaluate us on our speed. Instead they were going to rate us based on the quality of our stroke. We discovered afterwards that we were still being timed. Surprisingly, by focusing on style rather than speed, we all went significantly faster. When we stopped trying to go faster, we went faster.”
Reduced performance is often the result of focusing on a “goal” rather than being “present.”
In what areas of life can you improve YOUR performance by focusing on what is in front of you rather than worrying about the result?
Where, in the past, have you improved your performance by being present?