August 29, 2007

Speaking of fitness landscapes…

August 29, 2007 - Categories: life

Neil wanted to follow up on my post last 2008.08.12 about fitness
landscapes and life, so here it is:

Imagine that a bumpy surface is in front of you, like a model of a
group of mountains. Your task is to find the highest point on this
surface. However, you can’t see anything—you can only touch it with
one finger.

By putting your finger anywhere and following the slope up slowly,
taking little steps, you’ll be sure to find some peak. But is it the
highest point? There could be another, higher mountain a little
further off. You may have to start again and trace up a different
mountain. Jumping far away increases your chances of ending up at a
different, possibly higher mountain. You might start out initially
lower, but you might work your way up higher (or not).

No, I don’t casually think about local and global maximums. I got
prompted by a book called “More Than You Know: Financial Wisdom in
Unconventional Places.” Chapter 19 talks about fitness landscapes and
how companies can evolve.

So I was thinking about fitness landscapes and business insights when
a personal issue came to the fore. As I tried to sort it out, I found
myself sketching a graph showing one of the reasons I had for making a
certain difficult decision. I realized that although some people
thought my decision was a step down from my “potential”, I made that
decision because I felt there was a higher peak somewhere. (And *I*
thought it was actually a step up, or at least sideways, but that’s
beside the point…)

Life is a little like a fitness landscape, isn’t it? You can make
little changes that make your life better and better (or worse and
worse, if you’re not paying attention to where you’re going). However,
you can only get so far with those little changes. Sometimes bigger
changes are needed. Sometimes you need to hike down one slope in order
to go up another. And even if you make a mistake and the other
mountain isn’t as high as the one you were on, maybe the exercise will
be good for you anyway!

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