Evolving past plateaus

Jan 29, 2019 | Book Review

I’ve been having mad fun listening to an audiobook called “Bruce Lee: A Life”. It’s well written, very entertaining and I’ve been learning a lot about the legend.

Fun fact – as a kid he loved practical jokes. One was pretty savage. A ticket collector was slapping his friend around. Bruce protested. Then he got slapped around too. He and his friend plotted their revenge for weeks. They finally settled on a plan which they executed with flawless precision. Under the guise of apologising to the ticket collector they gave him a bowl of freshly cooked prawns. The man accepted and eagerly tucked in.

What he didn’t know was that the prawns were laced with laxatives. Nature kicked in and he rushed to the toilet. You’d think the prank would stop there, but it continued… Bruce and his friend were lurking near the toilet, ready to implement Phase Two of the Great Revenge. Once the man was in the toilet they slid a bucket of shit underneath the toilet door. But this wasn’t a normal bucket of shit. This bucket had a firework in. Assisted by the firework the the contents of the bucket exploded everywhere, in the toilet cubicle, all over the man. The poor man. And happy Bruce. The practical joke was a resounding success.

On a ‘deeper’ note – I’ve been thinking about Bruce’s famous quote “There are no limits, only plateaus”. On one level this is encouraging. On another level – the reality of plateau’s can be very frustrating. How do you bust out of one?

I think I’ve got the answer. Consider the flow shown below.

Hypothesis —> Actions —> Feedback

It all starts with the hypothesis. You believe something to be true. So you take action on it. Then you get feedback.

Sometimes the feedback is positive – you got the outcome you want. Many times the feedback isn’t ‘positive’ in the sense you didn’t get the outcome you wanted.

If something doesn’t work out – try taking different action. Keep on iterating, trying every permutation of action until you get the result you want.

This is where you and I can get stuck. We don’t iterate often enough. We stop too soon. Or we keep on doing the action that doesn’t generate any results and fail to recognise it’s not getting us the results we want and continue to do it again and again. Say hello to the plateau. To bust out of the plateau you’ve got to do things differently. Otherwise you’ll just stay there forever, never knowing what lies beyond.

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