“Control advances with our ability to predict the outcome of natural processes. In as much as predictions are but explanations in reverse, it is possible that they will be as combative as explanations, indeed for without this skill control of an opponent (people) is all the more difficult. In other words, prediction, true or false, is control, uncertainty or ambiguity suggests lack of control and, inevitably, control is power. Therefore, predictions (real or not) create power.”

James Carse


“Chaos is what we’ve lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is Ego, which clenches because its existence is defined in terms of control.”

Terence McKenna


Let me begin with a Life truth which probably screws up us from day one: we are brought up thinking we have more control than we actually do. We are told you can be whatever you want to be, if you work hard enough good things will happen and a number of things which suggest you can totally control your destiny. Maybe even more destructively, we are taught that if we can show people we are in control of things it gives one power over others. That said. It becomes fairly apparent fairly quickly in your youth as you look around that this isn’t really true (other than the power aspect). In fact, its bullshit. If you are really lucky someone will come along and tell you is (a) working on the right things is better than working relentlessly on the wrong things – this can even include your ‘passion’, and (b) the universe cannot be controlled and doesn’t bend no matter how hard we work at bending it.

Look. I am not suggesting not working hard or advocating for a belief everything is simply luck, but I am suggesting that believing you actually have more control than you do is not particularly healthy. In fact, I would suggest “that was inevitable” is one of the most infuriating sayings and thoughts in Life. NOTHING is truly inevitable other than “something will happen.” Sure, you cannot totally control what WILL happen, but you can certainly do your damndest to bend the arc away from what you do not want to have happen. That said. I would suggest that controlling things, in general, in Life, in business and … well … in everywhere, is possibly the least probable objective one could ever make, let alone should make.


In some form or fashion, we attempt again and again to gain & maintain some control over all the shit we are faced with day in & day out. Pragmatically this is our attempt to offer some sanity to what can seem like a fairly insanely chaotic life in combination with our lack of desire to believe luck plays as large a role as it possibly does.

All that said. Control, for the most part, is an illusion. It is an attractive illusion but an illusion nonetheless.

Which leads me to what we can actually control (beyond working hard on the right things).

As the world buffets you like a hurricane I would suggest the one thing you can control is your mind and, consequently, what you think. It ain’t easy but it is doable.

  • Control when you think.

Not everything takes a shitload of thinking. This is my way of suggesting overthinking is a bad thing. Uhm. So is underthinking. Controlling when you think is about “thinking just enough” – not over or under – when faced with something.  Some would call this ‘maximizing efficient thinking.’ I would simply call it learning how to not overthink or underthink something. This comes naturally to an incredibly small % of people. Let’s make up a number — less than 5% of people. Haggle with that number if you would like, but I offer it to make the point that the majority of people who say “I am a good thinker” <with regard to over & underthinking> are probably not. I should also point out that power accumulates with those who only overthink what is best for them and not what is the best thinking for the situation.

Anyway. You have to learn how to calibrate your thinking. My guess is even if you are a great learner no one truly becomes an expert at this, you just increase your ‘success ratio’ enough that you can sense when you got it right and sense when you got it wrong. Ponder.

  • Control how you think.

Our minds are often like people viewing an all-you-can-eat buffet table. Yeah. We will inevitably gravitate to either the desserts or the prime rib. We don’t focus on the most healthy and less glamorous stuff on the table. 

This means you have to control not only your thoughts, but also how you think. You have to sift through what appears attractive versus what may actually be more healthy <the ‘non-rubbish’ as it were> in order to most effectively meet the needs of the thought moment.

By the way. Please note I purposefully chose effective and not efficient. When you think is about efficiency and how you think is about effectiveness.

This is a focus aspect of thinking. Shiny objects are shiny objects and great desserts are great desserts and nutrition is nutrition. Focusing on what is best matters – especially over time.

You have to learn to do this. Some people are actually very good at this. They have a knack for viewing everything all at once and have an ability to discern the less important from the most important without being distracted by shiny and tasty things. Please note “some.” Not a lot. Not many. Some. You can learn to be better at this, but unless you have the innate instincts you will just be good at it and not great at it. this will be one of the few times I will say “good is good enough”. Why? Because being bad at this has dire consequences to your success in life and any ability to control anything that could be controlled. I should also note power can easily accumulate with those who disregard “how” in thinking because in their dull axe world the only ‘how’ pertains to control with the intent of maintaining power. Ponder.

  • Control how you select your thoughts.

Once you have focused, you have to select some thoughts to craft your decision, choice & conclusion. This point kind of circles back to underthinking & overthinking.  If you suck at controlling how you select thoughts you will invariably end up mired in overthinking shit <because you chose the wrong things and got bogged down in a less-than-conclusive spot> or underthinking shit <because you found an attractive thought which seemingly, in some linear way, suggested “that’s it!”>.

We all have a rolodex of thoughts in our minds that we have accumulated over time through whatever experiences we have had. Inevitably the mind, in its wily way, flips through it for you and shoves a thought or tow to the forefront – immediately. Some people call this ‘instincts.’ I call it dangerous. The subconscious can be wrong as often as it is right.

Unfortunately, you have to force thinking at this stage. Dive a little deeper than your initial “oh, that’s it.” This is absolutely learnable.

Unfortunately, today’s world doesn’t exactly encourage us to force thinking and learn to do this. We encourage instincts and speed above all.

That is unfortunate.

That is dangerous.

That is unlearnable … and controlling how you select your thoughts IS learnable. Ponder.

So, let me say one last time. Control is an illusion. So, own your truth. Don’t bargain your soul. Remember the value you create is ultimately created from the value you see in yourself. By the way, that’s not controlling the narrative, that’s ownership of self <a version of controlling what you can control>.

Which lets me end where I began – with what we are told to think.

Business is infamous for ‘performance management’ which is simply ‘control them’ in business language.  This permits me to make a point about control. Performance management systems cause:

  1. Gaming 81% of the time
  2. Information manipulation 74% of the time
  3. Selective short-termism 55% of the time
  4. Give an illusion of control
  5. Negatively affect social relationships 81% of the time

Source: Reviewing and Theorizing the unintended consequences of performance Management systems


All those things are simply an attempt to manipulate control techniques or what happens when you succumb to control techniques. Period. Which lets me end with “control is an illusion.” Period.


Written by Bruce