By necessity we live by heuristics, which are “short-cuts” in decision making that allow us to make a choice or commitment without considering all the possible information. This is inevitable, because the world is simply too complex and messy for us to make “real” completely considered and correctly weighted decisions.
If we used all the available information we’d never make be able to make any decision, we’d spend all our time considering the options. This is true more than ever in the always-connected 21st century where we have immediate and almost inescapable access to the sum of all of humanity’s knowledge, and are constantly bombarded with information neither solicited nor filtered.
The aim of a heuristic is to produce the best outcome “on average,” which means if you take the average of all the outcomes over a long period of time (say an entire life), the heuristic will provide better than chance results. Sometimes heuristics cash-out like this, sometimes they don’t.
A large amount of the ineffectiveness and problems in people’s lives, I think, occur by selecting heuristics that don’t cash-out in this way. One example of a bad (but common) heuristic, is: “if I fail once at something, it’s best not to try again because I’ll probably get the same outcome.”
One heuristic I’ve been playing with lately is pushing forward and making in the face of uncertainty or doubt. More articulately: “if you don’t know what to do in some area of your life, just push forward and create.” This has interesting applications in many areas of life for me at the moment: programming, writing, playing music, business…
So far it seems to “cash-out.” Even in situations that seem hopeless – if you force yourself to make something, it gives you a tangible asset that you can hold up and say: “well, at least I have this to show for it.” Even if it sucks, it seems to leave you in a better situation than before you created it.
Another benefit is that it increases your chance of stumbling on something that doesn’t suck, or that creates opportunities. I believe the only way to succeed at anything is to play the odds. Do something over and over again and you’ll get good at it. Do something enough times and at a high-enough degree of quality, and eventually you’ll get noticed for it.
I don’t know much, especially when it comes to life advice, but I can offer this at least. Go out and make. You’ll feel better for it, and you never know where it might end up taking you.