'Tis but a scratch

Remember the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail? King Arthur gets in a sword fight with the Black Knight, which sounds serious... until you see that it's gag comedy. King Arthur chops the Black Knight down (literally) one limb at a time. After King Arthur lops off the Black Knight's left arm he says "I've had worse!" and "'Tis but a scratch!" I crack up every time as he continues to minimize his wounds and tries to keep fighting. 

This is going to sound really weird, but I think about this scene when I think about adaptability.

As I continued listening to Finish by Jon Acuff, I thought about something I'd heard while listening to Team of Teams by Stanley McChrystal:

"Adaptability, not efficiency, must become our central competency." 

What he meant by that was that the old-school focus on efficiency, control, and so on is misguided in today's environment. The ability to respond quickly and adapt to constant change is what's needed to thrive (and even just survive!). In Team of Teams, he explores that concept in a lot more depth, but that core principle was a huge shift for me -- I honestly think it's one of those things I'll look back on 15 years from now and realize it was a significant turning point in my career and life. 

So what does all that have to do with Finish and the Black Knight scene? As I've mentioned in other blog posts, the beginning of Finish argues that perfectionism is the key enemy that holds us back from finishing what we start. At one point as Acuff was explaining the different ways this happens, it dawned on me -- It's more important to have plans to adapt to imperfection than to have a perfect plan. 

The reality is, things rarely go exactly as we expect. Whether that's a project plan, a development plan, a goal, whatever. There are always things we don't expect or factors that shift midway through. So, if that's the reality... why do we waste so much time trying to perfect and refine a plan? 

As Acuff explains, at that kind of perfectionism creates resistance for getting started, and then if we do get started it demands perfection as the only option which creates resistance for us continuing after something goes wrong. 

I've struggled with both of those resistance points more times than I can count. So it got me thinking, what if I don't worry about refining a perfect plan and instead spend more time planning for how I'll adapt when crazy stuff happens? How will I keep in the sword fight when my arm gets lopped off? See? I told you I'd make a loose connection somehow. 

But in all seriousness, I think this is going to be a key skill for all of us as the world around us keeps getting more and more complex (meaning it's more interconnected and changes in one area affect changes in many others very quickly). I'm no guru at it for sure, but it's something I'm working on each day.