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Thinking Strategically

Thinking Strategically

    Are you a strategic thinker or a victim?

    You’re probably one or the other.

    The other day a smart, attractive, 27-year old, white woman told me it was hard to get a job in California because she is a woman.

    That’s a victim.

    A few months ago I had a minor leg injury that looked like it would keep me from doing cardio for a few weeks. My first thought was that it was an opportunity to do more weight training on my upper body, which I wanted to do anyway.

    That’s strategic thinking. 

    Every problem creates an opportunity.

    In the early days of Dilbert it looked as if the strip would fail. It was published in fewer than a hundred newspapers worldwide and sales had slowed to a trickle. In the comics business that almost always means a comic will disappear in a few years. 

    I saw the situation as nothing to lose. It was freedom. I could take risks that successful cartoonists could not, and so I did. Dilbert was the first syndicated comic on the Internet even though the thinking of the day was that giving away your content for free was business suicide. But, as history showed, the Internet was essential to Dilbert’s Success.

    Generally speaking, I have the following automatic responses to bad situations.

    Chaos: There must be an opportunity in here someplace, as the saying goes.

    Discrimination: Discrimination generally brings with it some reverse-discrimination (perpetrated by the minority plus the guilty-feeling majority) that you can use in your favor if you find it.

    Broke: Nothing to lose. Take some risks.

    Not in a Relationship: Great time to learn a new skill. Easy to relocate for work. Far easier to exercise and eat right. (I got an MBA at night during one relationship-free period.)

    Angry mood: Good day to fire people who deserve it and yell at the people that need it. I do all that unpleasant stuff on my bad days because I know those days won’t get much worse. No point in ruining a perfectly good day when you can batch up all your bad stuff for a day that is already bad on its own. Never waste an angry mood.

    A few years ago I was sharing some frustrations about my scheduling challenges with a friend. We were both juggling schedules for work, family, and especially kid activities. We were buried in the complexity of figuring out where we needed to be and when. So we formed a start-up (CalendarTree.com) to solve the problem, which it does for thousands of happy users. We will soon announce a new set of functions and a name change. (I predict that 80% of you will use at least one of the new features we are launching soon. I already use it every day.)

    In my freshman year of college, I came down with mono, the so-called kissing disease. Doctors advised me to avoid physical contact with women for months. By coincidence, another student visiting the college infirmary for mono was one of the most attractive women I had seen on campus. She was way out of my league. But as I explained to her, the only person on campus she could kiss without fear was me. She became my girlfriend.

    I grew up in a small town in upstate New York. There were only about forty kids in my graduating class. As you can imagine, the town did not have much economic opportunity. You might say it was bad luck to be born there, at least from an economic sense. But I saw it as an advantage because I had no special ties to my home town, and my parents were happy for me to follow my ambition. Because of that freedom, I could choose to live anyplace on earth that I could afford. So I sold my car for a one-way ticket to California, where the weather was nice and economy was humming. It was the best decision of my life.

    I don’t believe pessimists can or should become optimists. But I think you can train yourself to think strategically. 


    In Top Tech Blog:

    – A flying car with a whole-car parachute option, just in case. That is what I want. That is coming.

    – In our ongoing effort to fool ourselves into thinking human drivers are necessary for operating cars, Ford has some cool headlights.

    – And how about a folding bridge you can take with you?

    If you only have time to read one self-help book in your entire life, wouldn’t you choose the best one?

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