STRATEGY versus BAM!
“Strategy” is a word like “acceptance” and “surrender” to me (along w/ some others I’d rather not mention, such as goodness [as in virtue, morality] and loyalty, success, happiness), in that I don’t feel I really understand it. I mean, I understand it on an intellectual level, in terms of its simplest “denotation.” But on a practical, day-to-day level, the whole me doesn’t really get it, can’t get inside it, use it w/ confidence, LIVE it — the word or the thing itself.
I look such words up sometimes (often), even though I know, I must know, pretty much exactly what I’ll read there — maybe even more. But “Strategy” and some of the others remain opaque, words that don’t talk to me (that’s how it feels). A neighbor likes to tell his kids, “Complaining isn’t a strategy.” I get that. I agree with it. But it’s not the kind of thing I’d say myself, or even think, because I’m not him and I don’t think or talk like that … oh, and also, I don’t really understand it. I’m more of a “winger,” which can be a beautiful thing when it works out, but oh when it doesn’t, watch out! No, I don’t seem to have some strategies or, if I do, I’m not aware of what they are or how to work them exactly. And my life is telling me I need to figure this out.
To me, accomplishing goals has always gone something like this — decide what I want or realize what I must do, PONDER and mull and discuss, wait till the last minute, and then:
1. Position the right amount of dynamite just so;
2. Light that match; and
3. BAM! (Done.)
4. Pick up the pieces later.
5. Never look back.
6. Yay! Party time.
(Best not to make too big a deal about things we’ve done right, esp. when we are not sure HOW we’ve done them. And at any minute, our successes MAY be revealed as flukes anyway, and … and … I know how all of this sounds.)
A while back, I was explaining to my six-year-old kid that he needs a “strategy” for how to handle situation X in case it arises again. What’s a strategy? (I asked. Not him.) “Strategy, yes. Well … a strategy will help you, uhhh. It’s a plan … that you follow … and it, um…” That’s what got me thinking about it, looking it up, etc., again.
The fact is I have bad feelings about the word. And I realize I have bad feelings about all of these words, some more than others, because they seem to be bandied about in a world that is basically foreign to mine, to roll easily off the tongues of people I may admire but know I can never truly “let my hair down” with — people who: go to bed at a reasonable time; dream sweet dreams; wake fresh, clear-headed; do what they’re f_cking supposed to do (and MORE) in a timely manner — check(!), check(!), and check(!); manage their readily manageable emotions consistently; make “good choices” consistently, w/ no big push-back from appetites/desires/yearnings/leanings that are immoderate, unwholesome, unusual — or how about abstruse? (There’s a word I’m sure I haven’t used since college, but I do know that lonesome feeling of not really being able to explain what exactly it is I’m toiling away at or why.) And back to these people, surprise!!!! They are not only successful (in the simplest AND MOST IMPORTANT sense of the word: they achieve what they set out to do) but also seem/appear to FEEL successful, competent, confident, etc. And this feeling, over time, this attitude, must be worth so much more than any of their individual accomplishments. That’s what I’m thinking about these people.
These people. I want to say, I’d love to say: well, they’re just like that, a different type of person all together, you know? They’re not like me … they’re less complicated, they had an easier transition into adulthood, had more straightforward expectations or aspirations, contain more of that salt of this earth, etc. But now I’m thinking that the real difference, at least one of them, is that these people had/have some seriously handy strategies — not just things they WANT and DESIRE and LONG FOR. But plans about how they would go about accomplishing/getting (some, even one, of) these things, given their resources and the way life goes. And these good, workable plans — I’m betting, based on such people I’ve known well — are not especially CLEVER or CRAFTY, connotations of Strategy that make it too easy for me (and my like) to disassociate from. Such plans are not overly elaborate or flashy, NOR are they rigid, more just “get the job done” kinds of plans. The STRATEGIC people I’m thinking of haven’t wed themselves to a perfectly defined GOAL (which seems to go against much of the popular wisdom re: goal-setting/achieving [e.g., so-called SMART goals]) or to any of the STEPS toward that goal, but seem to just sort of get moving — as the famous quote goes — in the direction of their dreams.
That “in the direction” part is so important, and I’ve always known that, glommed on to that, though I was never sure why. Now I think it’s because I understood/believed it on some level. We don’t have to work out all the details ABOUT ANYTHING in order to make a move. We ALSO don’t have to be completely okay with ourselves, our lives, others in our lives … the world — any of it — before we make a move. If we wait for the conditions to be just right, optimal, conducive, whatever, then IT, whatever it is, will NEVER, ever happen. And yet I, at least, continue to contrive diagrams, frameworks, flow charts, tables, algorithms, etc., to help guide me, to delineate the precise alchemy of transformation, to relieve me of the burden of a given moment’s dilemma/decision (all the while knowing full-well that I will abide, adhere to, follow nothing [or very little] that doesn’t suit me exquisitely in that very moment).
Now, I’m thinking about something my friend Rachel said recently about successful (or was it happy? content? effectual?) people, something about how people who do well (we’ll say) generally have some sort of Plan B, or maybe several Plans B: acceptable alternatives to the ideal scenario, most hoped-for outcome, fondest dream. And this led me to read up on Strategy yet again, in all sorts of contexts. Even though the explanations still seem vague and sort of all-over-the-place to me, the words/concepts that keep popping up are: principle, policy, doctrine, etc. You might think: “ugh.” But really the idea, which to me is way beyond CRAFTY/CLEVER, is that you build a realistic plan — considering your present resources, circumstances, etc. — that keeps you as close to your North Star (the thing upon which you place highest value) as possible while helping you move in the direction of your dreams/goals/whatever. And it’s precisely this emphasis on one’s North Star, this most cherished thing (versus desired end result), that makes strategy strategic: it keeps your plan weather-proof, makes it hardy, and helps you stay on track, reminding you why you keep trying to do what you’re trying to do even when it seems impossible, that nothing seems to be going right, etc.
I think I finally get it. I like it. And I’ve long recognized anyway that “trying to figure it all out first” is a pretty obvious form of procrastination — putting off trying, putting off failing, putting off succeeding, putting off all of it. The hard part is this North Star business (which is how I summed up “guiding principle, policy, etc.,” probably not the most helpful way for me to think of it, given me). But I do think, even with this significant reservation, that I get Strategy well enough to work it. It’s:
- Being willing to take action THAT FEELS IN LINE W/ MY DESIRED OUTCOME … with no assurances or supports (via solid track record or super-specific plan or goal); AND
- Putting more of the planning-energy into what I’m going to do to stay on track when all kinds of sh_t doesn’t go my way (because THAT’s a given AND bitching, moaning, etc., has done nothing to help in the past) than into exactly what steps I’m going to take to move forward; AND
- Considering Plans B (wow… how very novel, this one); AND finally
- Figuring out/admitting to myself, and possibly others, what my “North Star” is… and then fully accepting/surrendering to it, letting it take its rightful place in my sometimes crazy, often chaotic life.
I’m glad I wrote this (though I’m sure it’s hell to read) because it helped me think through something important, but I doubt I’ll write anything like this again in my five more months of blogging. Who knows, though — whatever I think I need, I’ll do. I have learned a lot here, even when I haven’t commented or been commented on, liked or been liked. YES, even with all I’ve started but haven’t finished, haven’t posted, etc., I’m motivated to keep trudging along. I’m also inspired, so often dazzled, by what I see here in your blogs. And although I don’t think I’m a born blogger, I do think I’ll reach my blog’s goal.
I used to mull endlessly over the difference between “strategy” and “tactics.” I gave up, but the way I kinda see it: Strategy is military-speak for big-picture goal, i.e. “America is gonna be # 1.” Tactics are how America gets there/stays there, i.e. “Let’s put a stone in Putin’s shoe.” “Let’s bomb Baghdad.” “Let’s not join in any nuclear raindear games with North Korea.”
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Oh now you’ve gone and done it! I’m going to leave the whole question of tactics to those raindear. 😉 But really, I get what you’re saying, but I can’t muster much of a response. I’ve got new bees in my bonnet today!
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I don’t get strategy or tactics though I understand why people use those words.
Understanding what the word denotes isn’t the same as getting it.
I enjoyed this post.
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Thank you and so true what you say. Funny how I love words yet often find myself feeling not “in on” their whole story.
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yes…well said. There is a difference…