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When the devil is in the details, it generally means that you’ve missed something, something crucial that has wide ramifications.  It’s an understandable obstacle.  We are incredibly limited on the amount of information that we can discover, consume and integrate into our plans and idea of how things work.  Usually the devil pops up to thwart our plans when everything we thought necessary has already been put together, rending much effort useless.  It’s obvious that figuring out these details ahead of time is crucial.  But how do you hunt for the devil?  And what happens if you find him?


What happens to the discovery of a crucial piece of information before it’s effects jeopardize our efforts?  Suddenly the devil in the details becomes inverted.  That crucial killer piece of information becomes a tool which can be used to tinker with plans in order to effortlessly incorporate it.  It’s the difference between the discovery you’ve lost the ten dollars you had in your pocket right when you’re trying to pay for something and discovering an unexpected ten dollars when you don’t actually need it yet.  The point is that you will use the surprise ten dollars.


The devil in the details is more like a nugget of gold if found early.  At the very least, even if the detail means that a goal or a plan absolutely cannot succeed with total certainty, the good in this is that it saves all resources that would have been spent before the fateful and unfortunate discovery of that devil in the details.


Hunting the devil requires somber and sober mix of optimism and pessimism.  Optimism is too often an unbridled enthusiasm that things will work out.  This simplistic perspective is out of touch with reality.  As depressing as it might be, the pessimist is usually correct.  But pessimists rarely accomplish much.  It’s the optimists who can harness the powers of the pessimists that manage to get new things accomplished.  Hunting the devil requires the pessimistic powers to imagine that he’s there, hiding somewhere, in the details of your future plans, waiting to trip you up.  The pure pessimist just stops all effort at this point, and this is where a tempered optimism is crucial.  The pessimist oddly has the more useful imagination initially with obstacles, but it’s the optimist’s imagination that is far better equipped to incorporate that devilish detail and find a way that it can potentially become an asset.  


For an optimist to harness the power of the pessimist, it’s absolutely crucial that the optimist recognizes and acknowledges that the end goal in mind, just might not be possible.  Strangely, this makes it more likely that the end goal will eventually emerge successfully, in some form or another.

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Podcast Ep. 1144: Hunting the Devil

Tinkered Thinking

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