1. Fly to the easiest spot
2. Face the toughest part head-on
3. Chunk the whale into parts
The first strategy is best applied when you face a new domain or task that may seem difficult at first. This strategy is useful in the following cases:
1. Crossword puzzles
3. Networking a room full of strangers
4. A visit to a new country
5. Tidying up a messy house
The first strategy is to find the easiest entry or starting point. Identify the least challenging entry point and quickly move towards it. It will help you warm up and relax into doing the rest. As you warm up, you begin to flow. New doors open up once you begin to engage. Next steps reveal themselves as you ease into action. The system’s intelligence begins to surrender to you and guide your next moves. The wisdom of this strategy is that it doesn’t matter where you begin, as long as you do.
The second strategy is to address the greatest challenge head-on. You apply this strategy when dealing with matters of life and death, when it is critical to address the greatest threat and danger without delay. This works when the most urgent relates to the most important and you must face it head-on. There are other situations, where beginning with the toughest challenge is the way to go, even if a time factor is not involved. Resolving a conflict is an example. The toughest thing in the world may be to get the two parties involved together in the same room. And that is exactly what you need to do. Faced with a communication breakdown, you begin at the toughest point.
For example, you could say: “look, I know you hate me, you might even want to kill me but we’ve got to be able to talk.” It can be difficult or scary to say but you present the other person with a choice: they can say: “I don’t hate you at all.” Or they can say: “It’s true; I hate you for what you’ve done” or they may say, “Don’t be ridiculous, I would not dream of hurting you in a million years.” Once you have said the worst, the toughest thing that can be said, it is not so difficult anymore. Plus, you are now talking. When two people are talking and listening to each other, hate and anger begin to melt.
The third strategy is used for large and complex projects where you can’t just begin right away because it is simply impossible to swallow the whole whale in one go or you can’t even see how big the whale is. Your approach then is to develop a plan, in which the big project is broken down into smaller projects and these are then broken out into more manageable tasks that can be planned as a series of activities on a time line. This approach is used for designing and building a house, for a large engineering project like building a bridge or an airplane and you may choose this approach for writing a book. If you need to plant a forest of trees, plant them one tree at a time.
The criterion to choosing your starting strategy is to find the point of greatest leverage. In certain situations the greatest leverage is the third strategy: Plan your work and then work your plan. In others, the greatest leverage is in addressing the toughest issue and facing head-on the biggest threat. And in some circumstances, your best leverage is the first strategy of finding the easiest entry point.
Reflect on what you have recently started. What strategy did you employ? Share with us your starting strategies and successes and what worked well for you.
© Aviv Shahar