Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beware the tyranny of the ways

The Way by Alexander Liberman
Image by fotobydave via Flickr
Right Way
Two dangers here. First is the assumption that your way is a right way. Just because it works for you doesn't mean it will work for someone else. The second danger is worse: the assumption that your way is The Right Way. In reality, there is no one right way. There are many right ways.

Wrong Way
I hear the words "you're doing it wrong" all too often. Truth be told, I've uttered that phrase all too often. Not that there aren't clear-cut mistakes that are easily cured with education. If you're still forwarding funny emails to dozens of your friends using BCC, that's wrong. It may feel right and appropriate from your vantage point, and none of your friends have complained because they're too nice, but it's still wrong.

But wrong ways are often implementation issues and/or have good intentions at heart. Correcting the means can usually lead to a better expression of the idea. If you find yourself ready to correct something you see as a wrong way, be sure and offer up a solution to help make it better.


Old Way
Humans may be nostalgic creatures, but in flights of fancy alone. The fact of the matter is that progress flows one way. Old ways always always lose out as the arrow of convenience (my term) moves forward. If you're pining for a "return to..." then you are misguided and wrong. If an old way is truly that, then it remains something to reflect upon fondly. You have little hope of resurrecting it. And if a return to the old way actually does work, it simply proves that the new way didn't work out and wasn't really a new way after all. That happens rather frequently.


New Way
New doesn't mean better. New doesn't mean the old will die. New doesn't mean faster. New doesn't mean bigger. New really means something that replaces the old in a way that increases the amount of convenience for those serving or served by the process that has undergone the change. New ways tend to crop up seemingly daily; but most are false new ways. Some new ways are adopted quickly. Some take time. Some are exposed to be more trouble than they are worth, which means they weren't really new ways after all.


Unexplored Way
If you haven't tried the way, how do you know it's bad? Yes, I know your current way fits your needs perfectly. That doesn't qualify you to make judgments on other ways -- unless you've tried them. And I don't mean reading the FAQs or relying on anecdotal evidence. Until you've explored the way, your opinion of it remains uninformed. So don't speak so loudly.


Your way
And at the end of the day, none of the above matter. What works for you works for you. It may not always work for you, and you may try different ways along the... way. That's OK. You may have ways that work for you that run counter to those around you. Still very OK, though don't make the mistake of trying tell everyone moving forward why your way is better. See "old way" above.

To quote Joss Whedon via Malcom Reynolds: "I have a way?"

Yes. Yes you do.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this. I needed to read this today. You've helped me a lot.

    ReplyDelete