Principles 1.4a

"Don’t get hung up on your views of how things “should” be because you will miss out on learning how they really are."


It's easy to point out everything that's 'wrong' with a system, a society, or a law of the universe. Women should be paid as much as men. Racism shouldn't be a thing. Everyone ought to be kind. These things are obvious.


But getting hung up on these things doesn't lead to progress. Instead, we need to start with the understanding that women make 70 cents to the dollar, racist policies abound, and some people are mean. Then, we need to figure out what actions will lead to change and take those actions.


For example, when I was coaching at Haverford, I wished to work with players year-round. I thought we should be able to help them train in the off-season. But the rules said I couldn't, so instead of wasting time complaining, I took action. I invested the entire fall every year in player education. I evaluated each player and taught them what they needed to know to execute their off-season plan without me. I purposefully developed a culture of collaboration so the players would work together. In time, they learned to be 2nd, 3rd, and 12th coaches. Instead of getting hung up on what I thought the rules should be, I looked at reality and developed a system that allowed us to achieve our goals.


But enough about me.


Dalio relates this Principle to a time he saw a pack of hyenas kill a wildebeest. It seemed cruel and unfair. But upon further reflection, he realized that the death of the wildebeest would feed the hyenas, maintain the balance of nature, and be best for the ecosystem. He writes, "nature seems to define good as what’s good for the whole and optimizes for it, which is preferable."


This brings us back to my pitching example. The Haverford pitchers could have resented the idea of collaboration. They were competing for playing time, so helping another pitcher could theoretically lead to less time on the mound. By helping each other they were optimizing for team success, not personal growth. Yet when they worked as a group, each individual progressed more than he could on his own, maximizing the growth of each pitcher as well as the strength of the staff as a whole.


So I'm all in on this Principle. Don't waste time wishing, and always optimize for the good of the group.

© 2020 by Nat Ballenberg