Indeterminate Heuristics
Taking the Next Step
by Dale Asberry
July 16, 2004
Summary
Moving to new paradigms happens one step at a time. Willingness to take that step means doing the hard work that it takes to let go of the past and embrace the future.

Taking a Step Back

A quote that I found got me thinking:
Everything must change to something new, something strange.

I'm having a particularly rough time working through this entry - I started on it in early May. A lot of fuzzy ideas are swirling around and every time I try to grab one it evaporates into nothingness. However, a few things are coalescing: People are resistant to change; we fear the unknown; and, we don't want to invest our sorely limited time on this planet to a losing cause.

Forgive me for the cliche, but the only constant in life is change. Those that resist change are investing in a completely lost cause. At the other end of the spectrum, those that invest in leading change may fail, but they at least have a real probability of succeeding. Coupled with experience and collaboration with others, the leaders can significantly improve those odds. In addition, sometimes the longshot pays off - hugely.

The ironic thing is that "change" is nothing more than recognizing what already "is" and incorporating it into our understanding, motivation, and actions. This is the reason resisting change is a lost cause - it is a denial of truth.

Why Invest in Change?

Once change has occurred (at the individual's level) there is no going back. In other words, change builds upon the past. The skeptic in my head is thinking, "Yeah, so, who cares?!" Think about it like this: change works like compounding interest at the bank. Still not excited? Then here is the clincher: compound interest is an exponential function - small, continuous inputs result in huge outputs over time!

Value = Principal * e Rate * Years

If Benjamin Franklin deposited his infamous penny at 3% it would now be worth a whopping \$6.14. That is (nearly) a thousand-fold increase from Ben's original saved penny!

Determining which change has value follows two rules of thumb:

• Anything that lets you accomplish more with less effort is better than the status quo.
• For those comfortable being closer to the leading edge (and making potentially costly mistakes), focus on finding changes that multiply your effort rather than incrementally improving it.

Time to Take a Next Step

Some will argue, "but that isn't the BEST step!" Of course, they are not interested in change -- they are only interested in resisting it. The reason is because "best" is irrelevant since there is no way of knowing what "the best" is. However, focusing on "better" improves our immediate situation and takes us one step closer to best.

Moving into our own undiscovered territory can be a little frightening. In our species' past, travelling into the unknown could easily mean death. Admittedly, the change from assembler to Java has definitely brought heated arguments, but I don't think anyone has died from it. So, take courage to overcome the initial fearful reaction. The rewards are worth it.

Talk Back!

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 R. Dale Asberry been hacking since 1978, professionally since 1990. He's certified in Java 1.1 and has a four digit MCP number. He discovered Jini at the 2000 JavaOne and has been building incredibly cool, dynamic, distributed architectures ever since! Over time, he's discovered several principles that have contributed to his success - they are the Princples of: Enabling Others, Simplicity, No Complaining, Least Work, Least Surprise, Least Damage, and "It Just Works".

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