I’ve had an epiphany. Everything we’re told is wrong. The truth is most often the opposite of conventional wisdom.
* Conventional wisdom says the shortest distance between Point A & Point B is the short-cut. In business, the short cut is often the long way around.
* Conventional wisdom says the ends justify the means. This is true only if you’re willing to sacrifice one constituent for another.
* Conventional wisdom says focus on the outputs (the what). But how can you effect an extraordinary output without an extraordinary input – the ‘why’, ‘who’ and ‘how’?
It’s the cause that counts stupid!
Let me explain. I’ve been fascinated with cause and effect for some time. It’s like a game to me, can I see the effects of my actions? If I press here, do this, or say that, what happens?
Often times, I’ll do something and wait for a response in the moment. Nothing. Silence. No impact. Hmm, well I guess I can do that with no consequence. WRONG. Everything has a consequence. Every action an equal and opposite. Karma, ying & yang, anti-matter, they’re all real. The thing is, we’re just not looking in the right places, or we’re not looking in the right time-zone.
People have short memories and to make matters worse, we live in an instant gratification world. We’re almost pre-programmed to expect a response in the moment, and when we don’t see it, we lose the connection to the original action.
If I yell at someone today, I might not see the negative impact of that action for weeks or months. I personally might never see the result of that action. But trust me, it’s there, and that energy will bleed somewhere, to someone, in some form.
Disassociation = BAD
We’re disconnected as a society from cause & effect. The two are disassociated, and that’s a bad thing. Why? Because when we disassociate our actions from their impact, we lose sight of consequence.
Derivatives are an example of bad things happening when creditor & debtor are disassociated. We created too much distance between the debtors and the creditors by bundling debt and reselling it to people who had no idea what they were buying. Like processed food, the debt became processed to the point of non-recognition. The banks, once close to the debtor, were nowhere in the equation and how would consumers discern the specifics of all that embedded risky mortgage debt?
Short-term decisions = Ponzi scheme of a different sort
Here’s another example of cause & effect gone bad. Short-term decisions. I have a problem with short-term decisions because they often come with a long-term ramifications (a future debt that will have to be paid by someone). So here’s the problem. When you separate the time-frame of profit (short term gain) from the cost (long-term expense), it opens the possibility of abuse. The disassociation in time of the profits and the cost get played (gamed even) like a sort of ponzi scheme.
For example, it’s a well known money making formula for private equity to come in, cut expenses and flip a company. Truth be told, there is some benefit to society in this act. The companies they acquire are often stagnant with layers and waste. But when they simultaneously cut future investment and innovation to maximize the short-term financial picture for flipping, they put the future of that company at risk. There is a future debt that they don’t expect to reconcile because they’ll be long-gone, having made their profit. They disassociate themselves from the long-term ramifications of their actions, leaving others (employees or the future buyer) to pay the price tag for their profits.
Inputs not Outputs
Here’s the summary. We’re a culture fascinated with results (outputs). And who could argue, if we get there, that’s winning right? Win at all costs. The ends justify the means?
It’s only right if we’re willing to sacrifice one constituent to profit another. When you focus on outputs, or short-term decisions, one person gains, another loses. It’s a formula that can only be exploited for so long before the system collapses on itself.
Instead, counter-intuitively, focus on the inputs and let the outputs simply happen. This is how you create systems that sustain the test of time across all dimensions.