When an idea is first conceived, it’s very easy to idealize it and see only the good aspects. In your imagination, anything is possible. But when ideas are implemented under real-world conditions, the results may not be what you’d expect. In fact, sometimes the results will be completely ludicrous.
The Idea-Implementation Gap
During the 1980s, my younger brother and I saw a TV ad for a device called The Clapper. You could hook up The Clapper to an electrical outlet, and it would allow you to turn the power on or off by clapping loudly a couple times. Perhaps the most common use for the device was to turn the lights on and off. So you could be lying in bed reading, and when you were ready to go to sleep, just clap your hands to turn the lights off. Clap again to turn the lights back on.
This seemed like a cool gadget at the time, so my brother and I got one. We shared a bedroom with bunk beds, so we thought The Clapper would be especially convenient for turning the lights on or off when we were on the top bunk, far from the light switch.
Initially The Clapper worked just as expected. We got used to it within a couple days. It was very nice to turn the lights off just by clapping. Such a cool gadget, we thought.
In the following weeks, however, we began to notice some strange side effects from The Clapper.
Some nights one of us would roll over in bed and notice that the lights were on. The Clapper must have turned them on by mistake. Sometimes when the lights turned on at night, it would be enough to wake one or both of us up. But other times we’d just be sleeping for a while with the lights shining on our faces. Occasionally our alarm clock would go off in the morning, and we’d notice that the lights were already on.
Other times we’d be sitting down doing our homework in the evening, and the lights would suddenly turn off. We’d have to clap again to turn them back on.
Eventually we figured out what was causing this screwy behavior.
Our next door neighbors had a dog, and our bedroom window was pretty close to their backyard. The dog could get within 10-15 feet of The Clapper, and if the dog barked loudly enough, it would turn our lights on and off.
If the dog ever barked in the middle of the night, it usually wasn’t enough to wake us up, but it was enough to turn our lights on.
If I recall correctly, the device had a sensitivity adjustment slider, but that didn’t help. If we made it sensitive enough for us to activate it, it was also sensitive enough for the dog to do so.
Oddly, once we realized The Clapper could be activated by barking, my brother and I also started barking. Instead of clapping, we would yelp, “Arf! Arf!” to turn the lights on or off. That became our preferred method because then we didn’t even have to move our arms — the ultimate in laziness.
Our barking had the side effect of making our parents and siblings think we were going a bit nuts, especially when we’d bark in the middle of the night to counteract the dog’s actions.
One night the dog was barking a lot, and our bedroom lights kept turning on. After the dog would bark, one of us would bark to turn the lights off again. Unfortunately my brother and I didn’t always coordinate well, so sometimes we’d both bark at the same time, and our actions would cancel each other. We’d end up turning the lights off and then on again. And when we’d bark, the dog could hear us too, and it would bark back at us, turning our lights back on once again.
Another problem was that usually one of us would wake up before the other, and that first person would bark to turn the lights off. This would often startle the person who was still sleeping.
“What was that???”
“Just turning the lights off. Dog turned them on again.”
Suffice it to say that The Clapper didn’t last much longer in our home after that.
Although The Clapper seemed like a cool idea, it failed to perform well under these real-world conditions. In the end the problems it created were worse than the one it solved. My brother and I inadvertently entered into a barking contest with the neighbor’s dog.
Despite the problems we encountered, it took my brother and me a while to admit defeat and dump The Clapper.
Partly it was because we’d gotten used to it. Even though our constant barking sounds silly in retrospect, the problems surfaced gradually enough that we developed a tolerance for them.
We also got into the habit of using The Clapper to turn the lights on and off. We barely used the light switch anymore. Upon entering the bedroom at night, we’d automatically bark to turn the lights on. And as we left the room, it was easy enough to yelp another “Arf! Arf!” to turn them off. After doing this for several weeks, the habit was ingrained, and we didn’t even question it anymore — although the rest of our family certainly did.
And lastly, our egos got involved. We didn’t want to admit defeat. Getting The Clapper was our decision, and we took pride in making good decisions. We didn’t want to admit that it was a waste of money. We wanted so much to believe, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
So even though the results were ludicrous, we still kept using The Clapper for several more weeks.
Checking in with Yourself
Do you currently find yourself in a similar situation? Are you getting results in any areas of your life that an intelligent person would label as completely ludicrous? Are you in denial of the obvious?
What would an intelligent person say about your career path? How’s your relationships with your boss and co-workers? Anything ludicrous to report there?
How about your finances? Are those going smoothly, or are you heading for a ludicrous reckoning?
Same goes for your health habits… Is it smooth sailing there, or would an intelligent person predict a rude awakening somewhere down the road?
What about your relationships and social life? Would an intelligent person appreciate your choices, or would they roll their eyes in disgust?
How about your daily routine and habits? Are those generating good results for you, or are you addicted to patterns that yield completely ludicrous results?
When you notice that your results in some part of your life are completely ludicrous, it’s time to admit defeat and cut your losses.
It was hard for my brother and me to ditch The Clapper, but eventually we saw the “light” of reason. We had to admit that using the light switch was better than turning into dogs.
Just as The Clapper became a trigger for our ludicrous behavior, you may have some ludicrous triggers in your own life. All my brother and I had to do was dump The Clapper, and the ludicrous behavior went away.
What are your triggers? How can you remove those triggers from your life?
If you keep certain foods in your kitchen that trigger you to overeat, perhaps you should stop buying those foods altogether. Tell your friends and family that if they ever find such items in your house, you’ll pay them $100.
If your boss is a trigger for unreasonable behavior, fire your boss. You deserve better than to work under ludicrous conditions.
If a certain friend or family member triggers ludicrous reactions in you, dump ‘em. Shift your attention to more reasonable people.
If you catch yourself wasting hours and hours watching TV or playing video games, dump the TV, games, and game systems. If the Internet is your problem, you can install blocking software to prevent you from accessing sites that trigger your addiction. Or simply offer a $100 reward to anyone who catches you on certain online hangouts.
Do your best not to let your ego get too wrapped up in the problem. Just admit defeat, drop what’s causing the ludicrous results, and move on. It’s pointless to cling to something that isn’t working for you. It’s also pointless to beat yourself up with thoughts like I should be able to handle this better. Those “solutions” will only make you look silly.
Use the word intelligence as your guide. When you have doubts about some part of your life, ask yourself, “Is this an intelligent approach?”
Some people suggest that the external world is never the problem. They claim we can simply shift our inner perspective to solve any problem.
The inner approach has merit at times, but I’ve seen some people go nuts with it — to the point of becoming ridiculous. They push themselves to tolerate all sorts of ludicrous hardships when a simpler, more practical solution is staring them in the face. Their solutions are akin to suggesting that my brother and I make peace with being dogs. “Release your resistance to the barking. Allow the barking to be. Love and accept yourself as canines.” Sure that might solve the problem on some level if we went with it. But that solution is just plain stupid.
If you’re really attached to the inner solution method, give yourself a couple weeks (max 30 days) to take your best stab at it. If you’re still not seeing signs of progress after that, consider a more grounded solution.
Some problems are easy to solve with an inner perspective shift. Others are much easier to solve via an external approach. And some problems benefit from a blended approach. Don’t be so attached to a single tool that you force every problem into the same mold just so you can use your favorite tool. Use intelligence as your watchword, and select the right tool for the job.
Also consider that even a practical external solution requires an inner shift as well. Many people cling to the inner work of building tolerance and acceptance, when the real inner work they need for growth is in the realm of courage and the proper exercise of power. It often takes more inner work to quit a negative situation than it does to tolerate it. So don’t assume that inner development is solely about love and peace and harmony. Inner development also includes the courage to stand up for yourself and claim the life you deserve.
Often the best solution when you’re getting ludicrous results is to simply up and leave. Physically remove and disconnect yourself from the people, places, and circumstances that bring ludicrous interactions into your life, just as my brother and I opted to physically unplug and discard The Clapper.
Now perhaps the designers of The Clapper might be emotionally hurt by our decision, but from our perspective, the problem was solved, and it never returned. We gradually stopped barking and regained our humanity.
Similarly, some people might throw a hissy fit because you’ve decided not to accept ludicrous results. Don’t let their reactions get you down.
In the long run, it’s better to stop barking.