| | The Dreary Universal Restaurant
I think it's important to challenge the idea that the Universe is like "this" or it's like "that." I'm going to paint a starkly different picture of the Universal Restaurant then Steve did. Then we can ask ourselves, is the universe like a buzzing restaurant with lots of good options and plenty of good people around (Steve's picture)? Or is it like a dark, decaying motel-restaurant out of a Hitchcock movie? Or maybe it's some other way entirely...
In Steve's imagery the Universal Restaurant has a lot of hustle and bustle, there are a lot of people, there's good food. You can get what you want if you just get clear on what that is. The question he is posing is: how do you order so that you get what you want? How do you get that clarity? But, because his metaphor of the restaurant supports the ordering practice he recommends, it's a bit of trick. When we are in an environment like Steve describes, it stimulates demand. Sure, there are a lot of options -- too many options -- but they're desirable options. We want to do what everyone else is doing -- ordering what we want -- so that we feel satisfied, and good and accepted and that we belong.
However, what about situations in which we can't possibly get what we want? What about lose-lose options, when we can only make the most out of the less-than-ideal options that are available. To me, our mindset in that situation is much more critical to our satisfaction, then our clarity is in the Universal Restaurant Steve describes. Let's see if this is true for you too.
Let's imagine the Universal Restaurant very different from Steve's picture. But first, imagine yourself in your car -- tired, forlorn -- you've been driving for hours on a dark lonely highway. Where are you anyway? You feel your stomach grumbling and you have nothing to eat in the car. It's been miles and miles since you saw a sign. Now imagine spotting a dark, old, run-down building with a neon sign dangling off its side -- is it a restaurant? Could it be FOOD? Tired and hungry, you park your car and walk up to the old wood door. There are no other cars in the lot. Where is everyone? Do they even serve food here?
As soon as you get inside, you realize that, in this particular Universal Restaurant, things aren't so chipper and bright. The place smells like mildew. You hear some flies buzzing around your ears. You wouldn't be suprised to see a rat come out of the floorboard. However, stomach grumbling away, you grab a rickety old chair and sit at the first table. You take a good look around, hopeful that you might be surprised by something unexpected, but there's no one around. There aren't even any menus.
In the corner of the room, under a flickering overhead light, you see a chalkboard with 1 dish on it, entitled the "Special." You can barely make out the scribble, but when you do, you discover it's your least favorite dish -- it's the one your mom used to make that you'd refuse to eat because it had too many vegatables. You hate that dish. It reminds you of how you used to hide it on your plate so your mom wouldn't see. While you're daydreaming about that, out of the back door comes a toothless, shriveled up old man. He slowly walks over to you. When he's just a few feet away, he spits out:
"You want the Special?"
Now, you know you don't want the Special. You hate the Special. You also don't want to leave because who knows when you might find somewhere else to eat. You hadn't seen anything for miles. So, what do you do? Do you order? And if so, how?
What I think is important about this example is that there are just as many options -- countless options -- as there are in Steve's example. But it does not appear that way. Since it appears like your options are limited and undesirable -- clarity about what you want, is likely to get you nowhere. If you focus on what you want, you are likely to be frustrated and dissatisfied because, at first, all the options are undesirable and perhaps even in the end they'll be undesirable. So, clarity about what you want will just keep you stuck. No, here, in this Universal Restaurant you're probably best off focusing on all the possibilities -- and enlarging them. What are the variations on the Special? Might the Aged Proprietor make you something different? Do they have a vending machine in the back? Where's the closest McDonalds?
In many ways, your approach in the Dreary Universal Restaurant is the opposite from Steve's Universal Restaurant because there, if you focused on possibilities, you'd only wind up confused and frustrated. As he points out you'll keep changing your order or you'll never even order in the first place. Maybe you'll order and just stare at your food when you get it -- all the time thinking: am I going to like this?
Steve's point is well-taken that specificity in ordering leads to specificity in results -- and vague orders get vague results. However, I think it's wise to choose your approach based on the situation. All restaurants are not created equal, so perhaps ordering can be flexible too.
Last edited by felberbm; 02-25-2010 at 02:46 PM.