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The Long View

September 11th, 2007

Back in grad school one of the texts I was assigned to read was, The Art of the Long View by Peter Schwartz.  The opening chapter contains this paragraph:

 To act with confidence, one must be willing to look ahead and consider uncertainties: “What challenges could the world present me?  How might others respond to my actions?”  Rather than asking such questions, too many people react to uncertainty with denial.  They take an unconsciously deterministic view of events.  They take it for granted that somethings just won’t happen; for example, “oil prices won’t collapse,” or “the Cold War can’t ever end.”  Not having tried to forsee surprising events, they are at a loss for ways to act when upheaval continues.  They create blind spots for themselves.

I recall this text often, because the title is catchy, taking the long view means to look beyond the immediate circumstances and project what the long term effects of an action might be.  I’m not the best at taking the long view on things, but I can appreciate the wisdom of acting today with tomorrow in mind.

I recalled this text again this morning when I read Dan Phillips latest post at Pyromaniacs, titled Temptation: a key element is… I encourage you to read the whole post, however here is an excerpt:

More specifically, this made me think of something I’ve noticed throughout Proverbs. Again and again, Solomon takes something initially appealing, and says, “Now wait, don’t look away just yet, Bunky. I want you to see what this leads to.” And then he ruthlessly and relentlessly tears the misty, gauzy mask off of the tempting path. As it were, he grabs us by the scruff of the neck, and says, “Now you look. Keep looking! Now, do you see what happens?”

The point Dan is making in how we live our life today is the same that Peter makes in making business decisions.  Count the cost.  Create a scenario and see what this ultimately leads to.  Too often, at least for me, I take too short of a view.  The scenario I create in my mind is too short sighted, or too rose colored.  Some instances require taking a worst case scenario, or at least a poor case scenario, in mind.

The wisdom of Dan’s post is also grounded in the wisdom of the book of Proverbs.  We need to keep our eyes and ears on scripture to be able to rightly understand the consequences of our actions.  The consequences of what we do (and too often, don’t do) today will rise up tomorrow.  It is our duty and in our best interest to take a long view in everything we do.

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