Why Accurate Distinctions Make the Difference Between Success and Failure

My greatest wish for humanity, is that each and every individual have the opportunity, and the tools, to be the most extraordinary version of themselves as they wish to be.  Success or failure, in all things, has a great deal to do with making distinctions.  But, even more importantly, the distinctions must accurately reflect reality in order for them to be of any use in progressing towards desired outcomes.   

 I’ve written at length as to what distinctions are, the various types of distinctions there are (micro-distinctions, nested), why they’re important, the problems associated with making them, and how RSTP puts distinctions at the heart of the skill transfer process

But, all the distinctions in the world are worthless if they don’t accurately reflect reality.  A few years back, I came across a gem of a book, written way back in 1973 by Harry Browne – How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.  I return to its lessons over and over again, especially when I’ve ignored it’s basic wisdom to my own great peril and disaster (my attorney has instructed me to NOT talk about it… sigh…).  

Browne is very explicit that one must, absolutely MUST, correctly assess the nature of people and situations (ie make distinctions) and work in alignment with that very nature.  I tend to think of this in terms of the Aesop’s Fable, “The Scorpion and the Frog.”  Basically, the scorpion talks the frog into swimming him across the water.  The scorpion allays the frog’s concerns that the he will sting him partway across and he’ll drown by pointing out the absurdity of him stinging the frog, for he, too, would die.  Predictably the scorpion stings the frog.  They both know they’re gonna’ drown.  The frog asks, “Why, oh, why would you do that?” and the scorpion basically shrugs (can scorpions shrug??) and says “Gee, I can’t help it, it’s just my nature.” 

We’re not surprised that lions chase down and eat things that run away from them or that tsunamis and tornadoes are forces of nature not to be trifled with and actions must be taken not to be harmed by them.  And, we’re not surprised or offended that animals and natural phenomenon act according to their basic nature.  But for some reason, just like the frog, we’re so often surprised by outcomes we’re getting, despite the clear, and fairly predictable nature of the people and dynamics at play in our lives.

 As Harry Browne says in various paragraphs regarding this topic…

“To get what you want, you determine the nature of the things you must deal with.  Certain things can produce certain effects and no others — that’s outside your control. What you do control is your choice of things that will be the appropriate means to the end you seek.” 

 “Everything you do will produce an effect or consequence of some kind. The consequences you get will depend upon the identities of things and people and how you deal with them. To be able to foresee those consequences depends upon your ability to perceive the true identities of things and people.”

“So the factor of truth becomes important. You want to see things truly so that you can deal with them properly. Whenever you fail to see something as it is, you’ll expect a result from it that’s different from what will occur.”

“The purpose of knowing “truth” is to be able to make it work for you. You need the truth in order to deal with things as they are and get predictable results from them.”

“The uses may vary, but the principle is always the same: You want the truth so you can use it to produce a consequence you want.  Truth is information that leads to predictable results. So if your understanding of the truth works for you, it is true enough— so long as you’re prepared for the possibility that the addition of other factors may alter the cause-and effect relationship.”

 “Your ability to get what you want depends upon these considerations: how clearly you recognize the identity of each thing and person you deal with, how well you isolate the relevant factors in any cause-and-effect relationship, and how well you allow for the possibility that other factors might alter the relationship.”

It’s quite simple – some approaches reliably work, and some don’t, in the given circumstances.  It’s up to each of us to determine what those workable approaches are (ie distinctions), and implement them, to get what we want (ie outcomes).  Reality-based distinctions help us to identify, very precisely, what does and doesn’t lead to successful outcomes.

The following are some examples of how making the correct distinctions, not luck or the correct set of genes, make all the difference between a successful and a not-so-successful outcome:

-It doesn’t matter if I have cool graphics on my snowboard – it doesn’t add or subtract to or from performance outcomes (this is sort of the definition from How I Found Freedom – you only have to represent reality “well enough” – you’ll never know it 100% – it has to be functional.  And, yes there are degrees of functional – hence the evolutionary nature of RSTP – if you make better and finer and distinctions, you get a better and better outcome – see “RSTP as Evolutionary”).

-In coding, a missing semi-colon is the tiniest of distinctions – the difference between success and failure, between wasting the better part of an afternoon or not, can rest on one absentee punctuation mark.

-Punching correctly in boxing – if you don’t keep your wrist straight, you end up with a broken wrist.

-4WD vehicles drive well in the snow – it doesn’t change how they stop – 2WD vs 4 WD – if the outcome has to do with driving in snow, the distinction is that the 4WD performs better, if the outcome is to stop, whether the drive train is 2 or 4WD is NON-SIGNIFICIANT!!!  You have to know what outcome you’re shooting for and then which factors or properties apply, then which values of those properties apply to generate the desired outcome.

-Warming up a steak to room temp before cooking – it makes all the difference between a perfectly cooked steak and one that is burnt on the outside and raw and cold on the inside.

-Struggling, fighting simple physics, trying to muscle yourself out of the water learning to waterski rather than letting the planing nature of the skis go to work for you makes the difference between flopping around in the lake and going home exhausted and a failure, or SKIING!.

-“Righty-tighty, leftie loosy” to tighten and loosen screws – and it’s from the perspective of the screw, not from your perspective – knowing this makes the difference whether or not you get the screw to do what you want it to do.  A related example – having this distinction in most cases is all fine and well, unless… you’ve got an Old Chrysler car – the lug nuts on just one side were backwards – this points to the fact that a distinctions doesn’t matter, unless it matters in that particular venue or application – you must represent reality accurately IN the given set of circumstances.

-Distinguishing the correct sequence of depressing the front-toe, then the back-toe, then turning the front knee out to make a snowboarding turn as opposed to the folks with a distinction, but one not based in reality, of flailing their arms around trying to make a turn – it makes all the difference in the world between smoothly floating down a hill, and jerking and falling all the way down it.

-Attempting to start driving again after being stopped on a hill while drive a stick shift vehicle – the reason people pop the clutch and stall and start rolling backwards is they haven’t distinguished the correct order in which to work the clutch, brake and gas pedals – knowing the correct order makes all the difference between smoothly driving off from the nerve wracking position, or stalling your vehicle and frantically trying to hit the brake before rolling back into the car behind you.

The great news, is that we can each improve our personal record for successes by acting in accordance with the predictable nature of things.  And RSTP, because of the nature of the distinctions-making process, can help both expert and novice improve the track record for efficient, effective skill transfer in any and every venue.


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