The Fatal Conceit Redux
Subject: Business, Frederick Hayek, Unintended Consequences, Market, Strategic Planning
The marketplace has what I like to call a high absorption factor—an insatiable appetite to absorb new products or ideas. So, forget about what you didn’t invent in the past. The real question is what new idea are you going to think up now? Stop looking back at what you could’ve done and begin thinking in terms of what you can do, right now. Stop believing that you don’t have any good ideas left; that notion is simply not true.
The marketplace is constantly changing and new needs are being created every day. The marketplace of ideas is limitless if you understand how to offer value. Whatever it is you think you can offer, there is always enough room out there for you to do so.
Don’t adopt a zero-sum mentality that thinks, “If someone’s already doing it, there’s no room for me.” Wrong! In a free market, especially an expansive one, all ideas that add value have room.
It would be nice if we had all the facts before we did anything, but unfortunately, reality and our limited capacity to process complex scenarios aren’t so accommodating. You will never have complete information before you embark on a project or idea.
Friedrich Hayek wrote a book called The Fatal Conceit, which encapsulated this notion of having to deal with incomplete information. He reminds us that thinking one can predict or foretell how things will work out is to fool oneself or to be full of oneself. He argues that we are incapable of shaping the world based on what we wish it to be.
With regard to taking action, Hayek postulates the following:
“In the marketplace (as in other institutions of our extended order), unintended consequences are paramount: a distribution of resources is effected by an impersonal process in which individuals, (themselves also often rather vague), literally do not and cannot know what will be the net result of their interaction.”
What Hayek is relaying is somewhat anti-Newtonian. Instead of there being an equal and opposite reaction for every action, there is an unpredictable reaction for every action we take. Every action brings forth “unintended consequences” that cannot be taken into account beforehand.
When you read about people who’ve attained great wealth or fame, you will invariably find that their success was not planned. Rather, one action set in motion a sequence of events that led to that person’s favorable outcome.
Read biographies of millionaires, billionaires, scientists, famous artists or what have you, and you will notice a common thread that runs through each one them: They didn’t know they would be so successful.
It should come as no surprise as to why musicians or recording artists can’t repeat past greatness. It should also come as no surprise as to why successful businessmen, who decided to build new companies, could not duplicate the magnitude of their past success.
Most scientific discoveries were not predetermined or planned. There were “mini-discoveries” along the way, which took scientists along new paths of thinking and led to new discoveries.
The “fatal conceit” is to think you can have it all figured out beforehand. Right now, you may have an idea or a desire to go after something, but you seem to be waiting for the perfect time. Stop waiting for “the perfect moment.” There is never a perfect time. And if perchance the perfect time did come along, you wouldn’t know it because unforeseen consequences would be hidden from you!
When you initiate action, you set in motion a sequence of events. Some of those events will play themselves out in the background, without your notice and hopefully to your favor. Some consequences will manifest themselves gradually over time, ever so subtly.
When I announced I was leaving the company in order to go back into sales, I set in motion a sequence of events. The unseen was happening without my knowledge.
When you initiate your “dream sequence,” you will both attract and repel, at the same time, in accordance to your wants and don’t wants. You will attract people who are interested in helping you achieve your dream and you will repel others (and their ideas) that do not contribute to your end goal.
To wait for something good to happen is to be acted upon.
On one hand, you profess the need to be able to control your life yet you act as though you want others to take the lead. You talk about how little control you have, but yet you don’t seem to be too anxious to take the reigns of your own destiny.
You can’t wait for someone to say, “Ready, set, go”; life doesn’t work that way. The word “go” was assumed when you were born. The race for happiness and success has begun!
I appreciate this Biblical verse because it’s a reminder that you don’t have to be the strongest, the fastest, the smartest or the bravest to succeed. Your time and chance will come if you go after your dream and put forth the effort.
Please forward this article; share it with a friend who may need a few words of inspiration.
Victor Antonio G., top business motivational speaker and author of “The LOGIC of Success”.
Copyright © 2004 by Victor Antonio G. All rights reserved. This article MAY be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, as long as the author’s name, website and email address are included as part of the article’s body. All inquiries, including information on electronic licensing, should be directed to Victor Antonio G.
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