Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - To the Extreme

This morning I set out two big goals get my new apartment organized: get the kitchen and bathroom into livable condition. As I was straightening out my bathroom, I noticed that the contractors had only put one light bulb into the ceiling fixture. It was a little dim and as I used the mirror over the sink I wondered if adding another light bulb would really help since there is a half wall that separates the vanity from the bathtub. To solve this question I considered the extreme: if the sun magically appeared as my light fixture, would that make the whole bathroom brighter, half wall or not? Of course it would. Question answered. I just had to make sure I had a light bulb that was bright enough to make a difference.

This little trick of extremes is one I learned in my economics classes while at Darden. For example, let's take supply and demand. What happens to price as supply increases? Well, what would happen if there was so much of a product that everyone could have 1,000,000 units? The product likely wouldn't be worth much. Price would be very low. So we can conclude that as supply increases, price drops (unless of course demand is so high that it could never be satisfied. But I digress...)

This method can be used for any circumstance in our lives from changing a light bulb to developing a new product. When I was writing the paper to develop a pilot of my education program, I went to extremes. What if I only needed 10 eager students, a room in any public classroom, and I was willing to fund the entire thing myself so that the school and the kids wouldn't have to pay a dime? Could I convince one public school in New York City to participate? Probably.

We can also use this method for more abstract ideas, and this perhaps the most powerful use for this technique. What are all the circumstances we would need to be completely happy? What are all the things we would need to accomplish in order to live a fulfilling life? What would we be willing to do (or give up) in order to make our wildest dream a reality? What if we only had a very short time remaining in this lifetime - what would we do right now?

The photo above can be found here.

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