In Defense Of Fewer Options


In the Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few. ~Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki

How often have you seen this quote cited as proof that you should open your mind to more possibilities?

How, then, would things change if you took it as a suggestion to narrow your focus?

Less Is More

There’s a concept called the 80/20 Rule which states that 80% of results are the result of 20% of your efforts. If you can figure out what that 20% is, you can devote all your time to doing more of whatever that is and you’ll get truly impossible results.

Single-Minded Focus

In a dynamic situation there are too many details in motion to manage. The best you can do is whittle your awareness down to those precious few details that will make or break your success, then give it your complete focus & effort.

Monkey Mind

When faced with a new situation, beginners devote most of their imaginative powers to coming up with endless things they could do. If this happens, then I can do that. If that happens, then I can do this. And on down the line it goes.

The result is an endless cycle of “what if” that plays out in the imagination. Since your imagination isn’t real, none of the dreamt-up possible outcomes are anywhere close to being likely. Their creative energies have been spent on fruitless conjecture.

The Expert’s Approach

An expert has already played out all the game theory. They have already worked through the most possible outcomes.

They’ve settled on the single most-likely strategy without expending any more creativity than required.

This leaves infinitely more energy to making results happen. This subtle change in mindset is the single most effective change that will drastically improve your effectiveness.

So, when you’re in the middle of a dynamic situation, focus on the single most important concept, principle, or activity and ignore the rest.

Soon, you’ll be thinking like an expert, and making beginners wonder how you get it all done.

Siu Nim Tau

The first form in the Wing Chun system roughly translates to “Little Mind Fist.” It’s fundamental concept is there are very few principles you absolutely must manage in a dynamic situation, and works through quite a few ways the ideas play out.

At the heart of it, however, is a whittling down of ideas, rather than an expanding.

Punch the guy in the face.

This is the bare bones, nut-and-bolts idea to the whole thing. It’s simple, but not easy. Don’t try to think about making throws, locks, breaks, kicks, or elbows happen; this is a lost cause when you try to force an outcoming.

Instead, focus on doing one thing, and one thing well; punching the guy in the face. A single-minded dedication to a straight line punch down the centerline will do more to help you manage the situation than thinking about 100 things you could be doing instead.

This is how you avoid paralysis by analysis, and protect yourself like an expert.