Thursday, May 30, 2013

Working at the margin

One of the best insights in the book Switch was the observation that when we have a crater-size problem we tend to look for crater-size solutions. The authors point out that this is a mind trap: there's absolutely no rational reason we can't fill a crater with small stones.

There are a lot of situations in life we can approach one pebble at a time. In fact, with the bigger problems we have to do this. We aren't strong enough to heft boulders and meteorites. We often don't know where to find them. And there are pebble-size things everywhere.

Sometimes when we face great difficulties we feel helpless because we can't do anything substantial to make things better; the only things we can do are at the margin. There are two things I'd note about this:

First, wounds heal from the edges. They don't heal all at once; they start healing at the margin. If you can do something about the margin, it matters.

Second, what happens at the margin isn't always visible. What you do isn't going to give you the kind of satisfaction you get from cleaning a closet or painting a wall. Nonetheless, it matters.


  1. I find this so true. Especially wounds healing at the edges.

  2. This is nice Information blog. Thanks for Sharing.

  3. REminds me of the story of the man that couldn't get his donkey out of the hole so decided to bury him there, and with each shovel full of dirt, the donkey packed it down and eventually walked out. Solving deep problems one shovel full of dirt at a time. Thanks for the encouraging words.

  4. I've been thinking about this for days now, and whether or not it adds anything helpful to the discussion, I can't help but think that if at all possible, it helps to apply a nice dose of antiseptic to the wound first. But then, it's not always possible, and I'm sure you know that.

  5. Thank you for these thoughts Julia. Love your writing!