Why Do We Fall?

In Batman Begins, Alfred Pennyworth said, “Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up again.” Although this line sounds good, it fails to capture the real reason for the fall. We fall because we act on some incorrect premises. We have made bad assumptions about the situation; acting on those assumptions resulted in a fall. Think about any fall you have had. Stubbed your toe? Embarrassed yourself by something you said to your friend? The program you wrote fail to work properly for your customer? In all these instances, you mistakenly assumed some untrue things about the situation. You assumed that you had a clear path to walk. You assumed your friend would react more understandingly. You assumed that you had found all the errors in your code.

Although Pennyworth’s statement does not really explain why we fall, it points out a very important fact—we should learn from our falls. What should we learn? We should learn which of our premises we need to change. The fall gives us the opportunity to examine our premises and make adjustments. If we realize that acting on incorrect premises or bad assumptions caused our fall, we then can search for better premises to use in the future. We must then adjust our premises or we may fall again in much the same way.

After you pick yourself up from your next fall, take a moment to think about what you assumed prior to the fall. Determine more appropriate assumptions and then move forward with confidence that your previous assumption will not cause you to fall again. At the same time, realize that other assumptions may still cause you to fall again and prepare yourself to learn from future falls, as well.

Focus and Concentration

Where do you focus your attention? Do you focus on one thing or does your focus jump from one thing to another, never staying in one place long enough to really accomplish anything? Focus does not mean the same thing as concentration. Concentration means sustained focus combined with intense mental effort. Concentration involves time, focus does not. Think of a pair of binoculars. You look through them and adjust the focus to your eyes and the distance of the thing of interest. Focus involves pointing the binoculars and sharpening the image. It does not require sustained looks in the same direction. You can change your focus quickly or slowly. Concentration, on the other hand, involves sustained looks in the same direction while examining and trying to understand what you see.

You should include both operations when you work to solve problems. Concentrate on the problem to understand what you know and do not know about the problem. Then draw on your instincts and let inspiration give you an idea of where to start. Scan the environment for hints about how other people have solved the problem, focusing on everything you can find. Concentrate on synthesizing a potential solution. Then concentrate on your work and solve the problem.