Rule #8: Think before you act.

This rule has both too much to put into one post and not enough. My current notes on the topic are several loaded quotes that have a lot of meaning. But I've never expounded on them before. So lets see what we can do.

First lets bring in all the quotes that are synonyms for the rule at face value. "Look before you leap."  I have a couple very impulsive friend who loves to charge into situation and just deal with whatever they hit as it comes. It's actually a fun way to live and has very real merit. However it also tends to get them in trouble (in one friends case), and ostracize them (in the others). These two have each at one time been my best friends. Because while they are "ready, fire, aim", I tend to be "ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim..." and occasionally fire if I haven't lost my target because I waited too long. I chose these fiends in part because they contrast my natural mentality perfectly. It's a matter of fresh perspective, Rule #7: Never stop learning. So their is a clear precedent to charging forward but as I already said their is also the fallout. But then it comes down to timing. What is the fallout, what is the cost of charging. Think before you act all comes down to risk management. As a developer I have to constantly balance charging into a new problem and solving it and moving on as quickly as possible while on the other side sitting back and planning my moves. If I constantly charge forward I have 10 times the work and bugs while a little bit of planning will be much less work but makes slower production. I've generally settled on this mentality. Sit down and get a plan. Then charge forward and improvise as the problems arise. It's kept me from a lot of very silly mistakes and several near fatal accidents. [Prov 13:16]

Think before you speak is another synonym. And it's all about Rule #13: speak the truth. I have caught myself when I was younger blurting out a new theory or fun idea as if it was a fact, usually to one-up someone or simply be a part of the conversation. I remember the day I discovered this and decided I would no longer speak without being sure of my words. For almost a year people thought I was handicapped because they would ask me a question and I would wait for 5 sec or longer just contemplating the question and the possible answers. After 6 months to a year it became more natural and I become much faster and processing the questions and answers. It was well worth it. Today when I speak I always speak with confidence, rarely contradict myself and always, to my best understanding, speak the truth. Additionally it keeps me from putting my foot in my mouth through gossip or inappropriate comments. And if you know anything about me you know the thought in my head are often offensive and off-putting. You also know that I genuinely love people and want the best for them. If I was to speak without thinking the people I love would be so offended I would lose them all. Not because I'm a bad person but because I process data deeply and even facts are horribly insulting when presented without tact. And tact is saying the right thing, at the right place, and the right time. "Even a fool is counted wise when he keeps his peace..." [Prov 17:28, Luke 14:28]

The final principle of Rule #8 is less intuitive from the name. Avoid knee jerk reaction. When a problem arises, especially emergencies when it is sudden and unexpected, we often have a sort of instant default reaction. Unless you have specifically trained for the situation it is usually wrong. In some cases this is the fight or flight instinct. In some cases this is a rash word. So I say this to those situation. When an emergency arises teach yourself to pause for a moment and evaluate the situation. If a grease fire starts for example, yes you need to hurry but you knee jerk reaction is probably to dump water on it. This will make the situation much, much worse. Even for the most desperate situation, a 3sec pause will result in a much better, if not perfect response. The real irony is the 3 sec pause can often be enough to end the emergency altogether. Someone swings at you with a punch. A simple 3sec pause, instead of a punch in response, could result in anything from the person who swung being stopped by his friends, you recognizing and dodging the next punch, or if you or another life is in danger a strategic counter strike that is well aimed and much more effective than a desperate hay-maker. When it comes to pressure in a sales matter I always walk away. If I feel I have to have it now it's sure evidence I do not need it. If I can't get it latter that's probably because something better is about to hit the market and I would have been better off waiting for it. For spiritual matters it's often the same. If I am preparing for a major change or feel God leading me to make a change I always take a cooling period. I can't express how many times I've felt I needed to make an immediate desperate change. Never once was the change immediate or desperate. The fact is God isn't worried about time. He isn't bound by time. Everything is now to him. Weather 10sec ago or 10 years from now. If it's God leading you to change the leading will be the same in 3 weeks. And their is no better accountability to the spiritual walk than time. The man who built his house on a rock was proven right by waiting for the storm to come and seeing his house still standing. The man who built his house on the sand did not think ahead, he did not pass the test of time. You want to be the man who builds his house on a rock, and you want to trust principles that stand on the rock [Matt 7:24-25, Luke 6:48]

Comments

Excellent. Particularly the paragraph on "knee jerk reactions". This isn't learned over night, nor without stressful opportunities to fail, then fail, then do better, then finally succeed.
Not sure if this is directly related. But it's better to be a thermostat than a thermometer. One reacts to it's environment, usually supporting it with haste, the other, (though slowly) changes it. Ex. Someone stomps up to me and yells at me. My reaction will almost always be to yell back. I have only reinforced the climate. Instead, though it would take more time, energy and intentionality I should respond with a far lower tone, ask good questions, validate the person's emotion and disarm their temper. Good luck to me!