Oftentimes, we fool ourselves into thinking that we need to have more information before we get started — on a project, a business, a career change, submitting a resume, applying for a new job, an artwork, or a book we want to write — until we fail to begin at all.
Oftentimes, the solution is to simply go for it and figure things out as we go. We don't need too much information. We just need enough. And more often than not, we already have enough.
Begin before you're ready. Launch before it's perfect. Start with the little information and skills that you have.
Unfortunately, we believe that complex problems require more information. We’re not confident until we have all the information we need. On the contrary, too much information can be detrimental. It can be paralyzing or confusing. It can bury the essential information and even hold us back from making good decisions especially when time is of the essence.
For instance, take this story (written in my own words) from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink:
In the late 1990s, a public hospital in Chicago was suffering from being overcrowded with patients. One of the contributing factors was a great number of patients who were complaining about chest pains. A patient who complained about chest pains would be confined in the hospital in order for the physicians to determine whether or not he is suffering from a heart attack.
He would asked several questions about his medical history, the drugs he was taking, his cholesterol level, whether he had diabetes or not, and so on. Then, he would be asked to go through additional tests and stay in the hospital to be observed. Because of this, the patients in the Chicago hospital needed to occupy several wards in the emergency room for several days until further tests and observations were completed.
A solution was found in the form of a twenty-year-old algorithm. While the doctors in the hospital conducted several tests and gathered countless information about a patient, the algorithm only recorded and analyzed four critical factors: the results of the electrocardiogram or ECG, blood pressure, evidences of an unstable angina, and fluid in the lungs.
When the chairman of the hospital's department of medicine compared the results of the algorithm with those of doctors who conducted more intensive tests, he found out that the algorithm predicted heart attacks better than the doctors did by 70 percent. Since then, the hospital used the algorithm in determining instances of heart attack and was able to reduce the number of patients in its ward.
Here's the real question of the story: if the algorithm which used less effort and required less time (and tests) was able to predict heart attacks with greater accuracy, why did it take the medical community over two decades before finally deciding to use it?
It seemed that the doctors, like any other humans, believed that complex problems required more information. They didn't want to believe that enough information would do. They wanted more information and complex solutions before they made important decisions.
But, the story shows how more information can bury what's important. It shows how gathering more information can even be detrimental especially in situations where time is of the essence. It shows how enough information is better than too much information.
The truth is that our time and energy are limited. They are better spent acting, doing, and creating and not on gathering information that are no longer essential. Focus on the essentials and go for it.
What have you been putting off because of overthinking? Just go for it and polish along the way.