Paths not taken

And vs Or.

Leading a project is about causing the death of a million ‘ands’.

There was a long line at the ice cream stand, but the person in front wasn’t budging. The customer had narrowed down the choice to four flavors, but they were paralyzed, unable to choose.

It’s not because any of the flavors wouldn’t be fine. They were all good choices. It’s because choosing one flavor meant not having the other three. Getting an ice cream had turned into a dance with regret.

You can’t build a luxury car that’s also inexpensive, AND drives well off-road, AND is very fast AND super safe. You can’t create an event that’s intimate, open to all comers, proven, resilient for any weather, held outdoors and unique.

We focus on the frustration of losing an ‘and’ when we get nervous about the decisions we’re asked to make, when we are hesitant about commitment. And we obsess over the constraints we’ve already accepted because it slows us down and amplifies our fears.

Instead of focusing on what we’re building, we focus on the paths that are no longer open.

If we’re going to create anything at all, if we’re going to ship the work, the positive path is to look for the constraints and grab them. They’re the point. No constraints, no project. When we see them as stepping stones on the way to the work we hope to do, they’re not a problem, they’re a sign that we’re onto something.

Managing a project is the craft of picking this ‘or’ that. ‘And’ isn’t often welcome because ‘and’ is a trap.