Monday, April 13, 2009

Why ready, fire and aim (doesn't) work

I couple of weeks I read on Zen College Life about 'Ready! Fire! Aim!'  and I thought it was great. The actual meaning, as I interpretate it, is to get started, get into action, modify what you do later. I read another article, on Study Hacks, about 'getting started is overrated' and I want to talk about both the views.

Why 'Ready! Fire! Aim!' does work.
  • The wheel starts to roll. As Kevin said it, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. If you keep thinking about how to make that first step, you will never walk. If you keep thinking about whether you should make the journey or not, you will never start!
  • You have to modify. Alright, you made a mistake, but you don't want to turn around and go back anymore, that means you waste your time. You are going to change your way and keep on walking, keep on going.

Why 'Ready! Fire! Aim!' doesn't work.
  • You waste time. If you are going to put everything in action, immediatly, there is a big chance of failing on the way. If you don't decide which way you are going to take on your thousand mile journey, you may end up on the wrong way. Maybe, as Kevin said at the end, you find a shortcut and you reach your goal more efficiently. But on the other side, you may find that you are walking on a road which ends dead. And you have to walk back. (I ain't that pessimistic, I think I'll find a shortcut)
  • You don't really know what your are doing. You don't know how you are walking. Maybe you are putting your feet completely wrong on the ground and you will have an injury after 50 miles. This is the danger with instant action, you can go wrong, and this means your whole idea can go wrong.
  • You can lose credibility. When your action involves other human beings, your action, without overthinking, can lead to loss of credibility. If you come up with the plan 'I'm going to walk thousand miles' and the other person asks 'what kind of shoes are you going to wear?' and you don't have an answer, it is most likely the other guy won't even believe that you are serious about your plan. 'How are you going to walk thousand miles without any good shoes, haha!'
Ready! Fire! Aim! is a great way to get you on the road, get your wheels rolling, start the action. But when it involves other people, you should worry about your credibility, you do have to overthink something, have some sort of plan, it only has to be sketches, that will do.
Make some sketches of your plan, and put it into action!

image by watchsmart

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alex said...

haha "ready, fire, aim" is something people do faaar too often, and sometimes not often enough.


awesome blog by the way.


Kevin said...


I'm glad you took a look at both views. I think that everyone has to adapt to what works for them. I should have done a better job of conveying the idea that Ready! Fire! Aim! isn't the ideal plan in every situation. Just like any tool, it can only do so much. You can't expect a hammer to screw a screw into a wall, but it sure does hammer nails very well.

I feel that Ready! Fire! Aim! isn't about shooting into the dark at the first thing that moves. Personally, I find that during the Ready! stage, I'm drawing up that sketch that you mentioned. I mentioned in my examples that the Ready! stage involved having an idea of what I wanted to do, in my examples: to set up a savings plan and to get my homework done. To Fire! means to take the most basic steps towards achieving that goal. Aim! is tweaking those steps, keeping what's good and getting rid of what's not working.

I feel that when you're Firing! right away, you're taking basic steps. If you're planning to write a non-fiction book, you wouldn't Fire! by starting to type out the first draft. To Fire! would be to take those first steps of research. To Aim! would be to evaluate what sources are reliable and valid and which sources aren't turning up anything useful.

And, definitely, when other people are involved, credibility is always important. My idea of to Fire! means that I have a general idea of my goal. I think it's worth mentioning though, that many of the people who've changed our lives went through times in their lives when others most likely doubted their credibility: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg both dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft and Facebook, respectively. I'm not sure that many outsiders would view someone who dropped out of an Ivy League school as the most credible person. This is obviously an extreme example, but I think that, if you have a goal and work your @$$ off to achieve it, you can overcome the doubters.

- Kevin

TheDutchSchoolKid said...

Hey Kevin, thanks for the comment!

You are right in that last point, and I think this is a very interesting thing.
Sometimes you have to convince people that what you do is the right thing. They won't listen, you won't care and have success anyway!