If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it. – Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
Driven personalities tend to obsess about having control. They believe they are making dozens of decisions every day which, in the aggregate, lead them in a specific direction on a chosen path. They believe they can create their own destiny.
I’m like this in some ways. All entrepreneurs are.
But Morrison’s quote is a great reminder of the goodness that can come from occassional surrender. Sometimes letting the chips fall where they may and then acting appropriately is the best plan of action. Sometimes being humble about our ability to truly direct every aspect of our life is good; it means we can focus instead on reacting smartly to life’s randomness. Life happens, we react.
In business, this is kind of related to my old post on whether companies can accelerate the adoption curve of their products. My short answer is it’s really hard and that’s why timing the market is so important. It’s much harder to create a market (ie, generate new demand) for a product rather than create a product for emerging demand. Many companies fail because they don’t acknowledge the stubbornness — the natural pace — of the market.
In life generally, I don’t believe there’s some higher power guiding our decisions, allowing us to abdicate individual responsiblity. And I don’t advocate living a life of low resistance — surely some amount of struggle, some amount of swimming upstream, is necessary to have impact.
I do believe, though, that we are born with certain strengths and weaknesses in the middle of a river that’s already flowing in a certain direction, and as much as self-help books like to say, “Screw the river! Build a dam!” sometimes the best way to be effective is to adapt ourselves to existing conditions.