“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
“Consistency is the refuge of small minds”
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have to disagree with Ralphie <which is what I believe his mother called him>. Consistency and <some> predictability gets a bad rap. In other words … consistency is neither foolish nor refuge of solely small minds. Nor is it a hobgoblin of anything <let alone little minds>.
<I am pleased to be able to use the inestimable, and not oft-used, hobgoblin word>
Please note. I write this as a person who abhors being too predictable in personal life and in business. I like going left just because the directions say go right just to see what those who tell you to go right are missing.
But. Here is an uncomfortable truth <at least to me>. Most of us like some consistency in our lives. Aw heck … I will admit it … most of us like a lot <as in shitload> of consistency in our lives.
Oh. And by lives I mean Life as well as in business.
Despite the fact we so often speak of ‘throw caution to the wind’ or that we like to be unpredictable or we like to be spontaneous or ‘be random’, we really don’t.
Yes. We say it, but, rarely do it.
We like consistency and some predictability to provide a solid backbone to our lives. And as a manager of employees you absolutely cherish some consistent behavior day in and day out.
Now, to be fair to Welles & Emerson, when is consistency a refuge of small minds?
Well. I refer to this as “small living.” It is consistent just for comfort sake. It is actually lazy living but made worse because it is living under the guise of something else — lack of any risk. Hence the reason I call it ‘small living.’ This type of consistency keeps you from exploring the bigness Life has to offer those willing to discover what is beyond consistency & predictability boundaries.
Here is what I think about that. That type of thinking, in most countries and languages, inevitably leads to a ornière, rodera, keréknyom, kiima <rut> or être en rut, in een sleur, essere in un solco, olla kiima <be in a rut>.
Rut … as in ‘an elongated hole.’
Oh my. So being too consistent or predictable is living in a hole? Yup.
Here is a reminder about holes. They typically:
<a> have slippery slopes leading down to the bottom,
<b> it is really really difficult to stop sliding down a slippery slope once on it,
<c> you need someone to pull you out of the hole once you are in it <or you stay in it>.
Just as spontaneity is imagined to be better than it actually is <because the other word for ‘spontaneity’ is ‘surprise’ and, despite surprise’s incredible reputation, the truth is that most surprises are bad> predictability can become tantalizingly too attractive. Geez. So I have just said predictability is tantalizingly attractive … as well as consistency … and, uh oh, even spontaneity. That certainly explains why Life can be so confusing at times. All things different but tantalizingly attractive <insert a big fat ‘Yikes’ here>.
Now. Explaining life is a shitload easier than actually living it and doing what needs to be done to maximize it.
Let me explain how difficult it can be. Life best lived walks a razor thin balance of several things:
– Consistent/predicted behavior <a planned list driven life>.
– Planned spontaneity <think vacations or scheduled parties or outings>.
– Random spontaneity <shit that just happens>.
And I would suggest <using my research brain knowledge> that this razor thin balance is maybe an 80%-15%-5% <with a +/- 2.5% margin of error> Life mix.
Yup. Me, the lover of not being too predictable … accepts the fact that having the majority of Life be familiar and consistent and predictable as, this pains me to admit, good. Because with some people, using my margin of error. less than 2.5% of your entire Life can actually consist of any true spontaneity and you could be one of the happiest non-hobgoblins on the face of the earth.
Oh. Please note that I believe “planned spontaneity’ is possibly the biggest oxymoron of this generation.We are so obsessed with time and ‘maximizing each available moment’ for fear of ‘wasting anything’ that we actually plan our free time.
This kind of seems nuts to me.
I sometimes believe that in our objective driven world focused on predictability <including measuring success on how well we were able to predict our outcome, including happiness — which seems slightly ludicrous> that we have lost sight of the fact Life is often meant to be lived to ‘do’ & to discover and that the discovery is the measurement not the supposed end value of that discovery.
Do I value the road which was rocky, overgrown and comes to an aggravating dead end as more valuable than the one which was scenic, smooth and ends with a beautiful view?
Whew. I don’t know. I would hope that I don’t measure them against each other, but rather accept the discovery as the success. Oh. That is where predictability rears its ugly head.
Predictability and consistency is often measured in today’s time obsessed world as not only the process & the routine, but also in the result. And maybe that is where I do begin to edge into consistency being the hobgoblin of small minds. I would be foolish to suggest we don’t all aim for more positive results than negative ones because we do. Why? Simply because we all want to be happy.
But if you live your life solely focused on ‘only doing what will make me happy’ <or has the highest probability of happiness> based on predictable behavior I would suggest you have committed to not only a fairly boring path you still will not be 100% successful in reaching your intended objective.
In business? It sounds frustratingly non innovative <and a sure path down the slippery slope of mediocrity>.
And maybe that is the point.
Too much consistency and predictability only insures a life of happy <possibly content> mediocrity.
Maybe some people are content with mediocrity, but I would suggest that Life isn’t really meant to be mediocre. It is meant to be spectacularly exciting and disappointing. Maybe not all the time <any one of us would eventually get sick if 24 hours a day we rode the world’s largest rollercoaster>, but certainly we deserve to see how high we can go and how low we can get out of.
Why? Because all of that stuff defines our character <plus, who the hell wants their epitaph to be “he was consistent & predictable”?>.
I imagine all I am suggesting is that Life isn’t meant to be little. Too much consistency and predictability simply insures you have made your Life as little as it can be. I am not suggesting you have to go hog-wild and ‘live every moment like it is your last’ <which, in general, I tend to believe is fairly crappy advice> but rather … maybe it is challenging yourself to live on that razor thin balance of consistency, planned spontaneity and true spontaneity.
Look. I know this isn’t easy … and I also understand that there is a huge spectrum of living life possibilities between dangerous freedom and slavery to predictability. I know I personally swing back & forth between the two <which could make anyone’s head a little dizzy on occasion>.
But maybe it is simpler to go ahead and call this type of attitude & behavior as ‘restless consistency.’ Maybe we should aspire to live Life that way … and each of us define our restlessness however we would like, but maintain some restlessness.
I can guarantee only one thing: it will not all go well.
I can guarantee two things: it will not all go well but what does go well will most likely go really well.
Well. Maybe I can predict one more thing. Your Life will be bigger. Your business will be bigger.